HARARE – Schweppes Holdings Africa (Schweppes) says it has invested $3 million towards the resuscitation of a fruit processing plant in Norton.
The plant, which ceased operations in 2009, is being run by Best Fruit Processors (Best Fruit) — a joint venture between Schweppes subsidiary, Beitbridge Juicing, and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.
Best Fruit general manager, Smart Zongololo, said since its establishment in August last year the company, with an annual production of 30 000 tonnes procured the fruit for a total value of $300 000.
He added that the fruit processor targets to spend $2 million on procuring feedstock from farmers this year before increasing the expenditure to $5 million in 2017.
“Production capacity is 10 tonnes raw fruit per hour,” Zongololo said adding that the firm started the processing machines on December 31, 2015 with a commissioning production run for mango and guavas into purees.
Best Fruit has since started receiving tomatoes, which are being processed into tomato paste.
“Raw fruits that have gone into the plant this year to date amount to 100 tonnes mango, 257 tonnes guava and 30 tonnes tomatoes,” he said.
The company’s business key focus is to fulfil domestic demand for tomato paste and fruit purees while supplying export markets. The targeted contributions for 2016 are 70 percent exports and 30 percent domestic business in volume terms.
In addition to creating a sustainable export market for processed fruit, Best Fruit is expecting to simultaneously create additional economic value through the creation of about 100 jobs from direct employment and 3 000 indirect jobs as farmers will be signed up for the out-grower programme.
To date, 300 farmers are benefitting from the out-grower programme.
Agriculture experts, say the fruit processing business model has a heavy reliance on the farming community’s ability to invest in the production of relevant fruit for processing at a reasonable price and at the right quality.
“A sustainable inclusive business model incorporating communal farmers into our value chains is a key pillar of success for our fruit processing division,” Schweppes spokesperson Unaiswi Nyikadzino said.
“Therefore, a lot of our effort as a group is focused on creating a solid platform for investment in that area as we provide a ready market for fruit that meets our criteria for processing,” Nyikadzino added.