From Kudzanai Sharara in Beitbridge
Fruit and allied products processor Beitbridge Juicing Private Limited, is targeting to process 25,500 tonnes of oranges at its Beitbridge plant by 2018 year end.
If met, this year’s output will be 59 percent higher than the 16 000 tonnes that were processed in 2017.
Beitbridge Juicing Private Limited (BBJ) head of operations Mr Charles Tembo, said the company, which is 100 percent owned by Schweppes Holdings Africa Limited, is expecting to gross $17,5 million from the processed product which is mostly supplied to the parent company.
“We see ourselves getting to that 25 500 tonnes target as we have already processed 15 500 tonnes” said Mr Tembo speaking at a media tour of the processing plant on Monday.
Mr Tembo said although the plant has a capacity to process 40 000 tonnes, it is limited by the amount of oranges supplied by the nearby farms.
Approximately seven farms, producing from more than 2 000 hectares supply BBJ with fresh oranges for processing.
Mr Tembo, however, said the bulk of the oranges from the farms is destined for the export market where they fetch better prices and also the much needed foreign currency.
“Approximately 70 percent of the oranges produced by the nearby farms is meant for the export market while 20 percent goes into the local market as fresh fruit. The balance of 10 percent is what is then processed locally,” said Mr Tembo.
He said farmers normally get good prices, three times more, on the exported oranges than they get from locally processed oranges.
Despite paying less, Mr Tembo said the plant is an important aspect in the value chain as it takes up some oranges that might not necessarily make it to the export market.
“Some oranges might have blemishes outside and are not good for the export or local market, but they will still be fresh for processing. So the plant is a vital cog otherwise those oranges will end up being fed to animals,” he said.
With the bulk of the oranges destined for the export market, Mr Tembo said the plant might not necessarily get to process at its maximum capacity of 40 000 tonnes.
In 2017, the plant only managed to process 16 000 tonnes, one of the lowest quantities in years.
As a way of increasing its uptake as well as Corporate Social Responsibility, BBJ has gone into with non-governmental organisation to support and capacitate out grower schemes with Shashe Irrigation Scheme being the first one.
According to Schweppes marketing and corporate communications executive Mrs Una Nyikadzino at least 200 families on 92 hectares are part of the scheme.
“The scheme expect to produce 600 tonnes this year and at least 95 percent of the produce comes to our plant, which is a guaranteed market while the balance is for the local market as fresh fruit.
Last year, Mrs Nyikadzino said, BBJ had provided $80,000 dollars to the scheme for working capital among other requirements.
“Shashe is close to our heart and we will continue to support them,” said Mrs Nyikadzino
She said there was also a $60 000 revolving fund at the disposal to the farmers.