Natasha Chamba , Business Reporter
AGRO-PROCESSING giant Surface Wilmar has proposed a $30 million contract farming investment aimed at increasing domestic production in the edible oils industry.
Surface Wilmar is a private company situated in Chitungwiza and is the largest producer of edible oils in the country.
The proposed investment comes at a time when Zimbabwe is experiencing a shortage of basic commodities mainly cooking oil due to the scarcity of foreign currency required to import soya bean, a major ingredient in the production of cooking oil.
In e-mailed responses to Business Chronicle, Surface Wilmar chief executive officer, Mr Sylvester Mangani, said the investment was looking at growing 20 000 hectares of soya bean within the next 12 months.
“We are targeting to grow about 20 000 hectares in the next 12 months and we have already contracted 100 farmers to grow soya beans.
“In the next five years we are looking at doing 100 000 hectares and we have committed about $30 million to the project and bring in about 500 centre pivots and irrigation systems,” he said.
“As a company we are ensuring that the targeted local farmers, who have farms with nearby source of water, can make complete use of land. This will also ensure that the crop is not dependent on rains, as growing any crop without irrigation facilities is a big gamble for the farmer.
“We need to ensure that the crop produced in the fields is internationally and regionally price competitive.”
On Monday, Bulawayo-based United Refineries Limited and its partners also launched their soya outgrower scheme in Bulawayo to the tune of $30 million.
Mr Mangani said Surface Wilmar’s manufacturing plants have a capacity of crushing 250 000 tonnes of soya beans but said the crop available in the country was not enough for even a month’s crush.
He also noted that if the proposal by Surface Wilmar was approved, it will result in the growth of the soya bean crop to nearly 250 000t in the coming years.
“We are confident that our proposals if accepted and given a chance to be implemented will result in growth of the soya bean crop to nearly 250 000 tonnes in next five years, which will yield nearly 50 000 tonnes of crude soya bean oil locally from the soya beans. This will be sufficient to cater to nearly 50 percent of the edible oil requirement of the nation, while meeting the 100 percent demand for the soya bean meal for the nation,” he said.
Mr Mangani asked for more support from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in sourcing foreign currency saying $30 million deal was being made from Surface Wilmar’s own resources and credit lines from the local banks.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Prof Mthuli Ncube this week revealed that the Government is considering selling part of its stake in Olivine Industries, jointly owned with Surface Wilmar, to raise foreign currency towards recapitalising operations. Government holds 35 percent stake in Olivine whilst Surface Wilmar is the largest investor in the entity.
The revival of Olivine is anticipated to reduce the import bill for cooking oil and other basic commodities. — @queentauruszw.