Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S sole button manufacturer, Life Gear, has increased capacity utilisation to 40 percent driven by foreign currency shortages that have seen companies who used to import the buttons turning to the local supplier.
Formerly Coronet Buttons, the Bulawayo-based company has been operating at 10 percent capacity until the recent sharp increase in demand for its products.
Life Gear managing director, Mr Mzingaye Mdlauzo, said as a result of improved capacity utilisation, his company was now generating between $14 000 and $15 000 per month in revenue compared to $8 000 in the past.
“Those companies that used to import buttons from outside the country are now buying from us hence the increased demand for our products.
“Our capacity utilisation levels have increased to 40 percent from an average of 10 percent before the forex crisis,” he told Business Chronicle.
In the past, the button manufacturer has appealed to Government to impose a ban on the importation of buttons saying it had the capacity to meet local demand.
“We cannot say the improved capacity utilisation we have experienced is due to Government support, but there has been an automatic correction of our situation owing to forex shortage,” said Mr Mdlauzo.
He said his organisation was also not spared from the adverse effects of foreign currency shortages as they also import spare parts and critical raw materials such as chemicals from South Africa and Italy respectively.
He said the 31 workers were coping with the improved capacity utilisation and as such new job opportunities were yet to be created.
Mr Mdlauzo however said the company needs at least $150 000 capital injection to enable it to expand its operations as well as buy state-of-the-art equipment.
“We have not been able to secure funding from local financial institutions and that has stalled our expansion plans,” said Mr Mdlauzo.
At its peak, the company was one of the key industries in Bulawayo employing close to 500 people.