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August 09, 2015

Private, government companies to partner in Zimbabwe tomato canning plant

Thee Zimbabwe Independent reports that Schweppes Zimbabwe and the State-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Authority(ARDA) are 'finalising a deal to kick-start a multi-million dollar tomato canning plant at Arda Balu Estate in Umguza district surrounding Bulawayo which has been lying idle,' as well as the revival of another derelict plant in Norton, on the outskirts of the capital city Harare.

The chairman of the ARDA Board is reported to have said Shweppes would provide US$2,2 million in working capital. He said the project would produce tomato paste. Around 70% of the produce will be for the export market while the remainder will cater for the domestic market.

He said the planting of tomatoes by farmers will commence immediately as the authority and Schweppes thrashed out the final details of their agreement. This, he added, will ensure the processing of tomatoes will begin in November this year. 

Previous reports this year have mentioned an expected output of 60 tonnes a day for the 'so-called Zagrinda Project.'

ARDA has dozens of vast farms under its portfolio, most of them under-performing for many years. Despite this, government is reluctant to let go of them given the sensitivity of anything to do with land after the controversial land reform exercise that began a decade an a half ago. Despite the potential of the properties, private investors are wary of partnerships with the Zimbabwean government that involve agricultural land, given the latter's recent notoriety in regards to the expropriation of once white-owned land as part of land reform.

Schweppes Zimbabwe, once a subsidiary of Coca Cola,  is one of the country's leading producers of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages. While the beverages sector has been performing above the average in a depressed Zimbabwean economy of job losses, shrinking incomes and demand, Schweppes and other companies in the sector have recently reported declines in sales. An exploration of regional export opportunities and the diversification represented by the partnership with ARDA on the tomato canning project can be seen as measures to survive Zimbabwe's currently depressed market for most non-essential goods and services.

African Agriculture      

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