By Nkululeko Sibanda
Cairns Foods plans to inject US$4 million into its operations this year as it gradually revives its beverages business unit which collapsed when government rolled out its chaotic agrarian reforms.
Former president Robert Mugabe’s violent and chaotic land seizures which started in 2000 left a trail of destruction, triggering a massive decline in agriculture output, while it also affected other downstream industries.
Company CE Workmore Chimweta said the financial resources earmarked for investment this year would be channelled towards retooling as well as machinery maintenance.
“We have outlaid about US$1 million so far that we have invested into the company’s operations. Within the next nine months, we should be able to invest a further US$3 million into the operations, specifically in areas such as new equipment as well as repairing existing equipment and operations in general,” Chimweta said.
Returning the diversified foods and beverages manufacturer to viability would require a massive investment in various agriculture sub-sectors such as horticulture, he said.
A sharp decline in grape production following the land reform programme saw a rapid drop in wine production by Cairns.
“We had situations where farming operations were disturbed during the land reform programme. These also affected us a lot as the disturbances were also experienced in areas where grapes, which we use in wine production, are grown,” he said.
“We will need to invest in farming equipment that will enable us to do proper farming activity in the fields where we shall be planting grapes. It is a worthwhile investment that should be able to spur our wine production to higher levels and enable us to satisfy both the local and foreign markets for our Mukuyu wines.”
He said the firm was currently equipping 20 000 farmers across the country with farming skills as part of its out growers’ scheme.
“We have come up with a programme in which we work with over 20 000 farmers in areas like Gwanda, Bindura, Checheche, among other areas. As Cairns, we have invested in training these farmers and enhancing their skills in the farming business,” he said.
As part of its growth strategy, Chimweta said the company was exploring avenues of penetrating the European market.
“We supply a wide range of our products to the Southern African region. Our plans include maintaining our foothold in the region in countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa, amongst others,” he said.
“We have presence in Europe but we believe we can increase our footprint there. We know the terrain because we once had a traditional market in that region at some point. What we need to do is to take it from there and ensure that the market feels our products’ presence.”
Cairns manufacturers a range of products which include the Cashel Valley baked beans, Mukuyu wine and Potato Crisps.
In 2015, Cairns revived three defunct production lines, jolting its product output.