Schweppes Zimbabwe’s Best Fruits unit to set up $10mln plant in Matabeleland

Schweppes Zimbabwe’s Best Fruits unit to set up $10mln plant in Matabeleland

HARARE, March 16 (The Source) – The Schweppes Zimbabwe-controlled Best Fruit Processors will this year process 20,000 tonnes of raw fruit, two thirds of capacity, and will set up a $10 million plant in Matabeleland, officials said on Thursday.

The firm, which produces tomato paste and other fruit purees, started operating this year.

“The focus is import substitution for tomato paste and other fruit purees as well as export contribution to increase much needed foreign currency earnings for the country,” general manager, Smart Zongololo  told journalists on Thursday after a tour of the company’s Norton plant.

Best Fruit is a joint venture between Beit Bridge Juicing (BBJ) a subsidiary of Schweppes Holdings Africa limited, which owns 70 percent of the business, and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which holds the remaining 30 percent.

The firm bought the processing facility from previous owners, Zagrinda and invested $3 million and raised capacity to 30,000 tonnes per annum.

“We are able to process 6,000 tonnes of processed fruit and the market can only take a third of what we produce, so the balance is earmarked for export,” Zongololo said.

The firm has targeted countries in the Southern Africa Development  Community for export, he added.

Chairman Nicholas Ncube said the board had approved a plan to invest $10 million  in setting up a similar facility in Esigodini later in the year.

A total of 3,328 outgrowers in Matabeleland are expected to benefit from the project. Last year a total of 2,250 farmers participated in the outgrower programme  supplying the Norton facility. The company is negotiating with local banks for a $2 million facility for the farmers, Zongololo said.

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