Prince Sunduzani, Business Reporter
MEALIE Brand, a division of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Zimplow, has increased its capacity utilisation from 50 percent to 80 percent on the back of a good agricultural season the country experienced last year.
Under the Command Agriculture programme, Zimbabwe — which requires 1.5 million tonnes of maize annually — achieved over 2.6 million tonnes in 2017.
The agriculture season was also good in other Sadc countries like Zambia and Angola where Mealie Brand exports some of its products such as ox-drawn ploughs.
In an interview yesterday, Mealie Brand managing director Mr Walter Chigwada said his company was looking forward to expanding its export markets in order to realise more growth.
“We are operating at 80 percent capacity which is an improvement from the previous season where we were at 50 percent.
“Our product was affected by poor performance in the farming industry due to the drought that hit the country in recent years,” he said.
Mr Chigwada said the Bulawayo-based agriculture implements manufacturer has an installed capacity of processing 20 tonnes of steel a day which translates to about 4 200 tonnes per year.
“And we were doing about 3 200 tonnes last year. We desire to grow our export market and we are trying to enhance the competitiveness of our products.
“Our drive has been to request the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to increase the five percent export incentive for us so that we can be able to increase our competitiveness in the export market.”
Mealie Brand manufactures single and double farrow ploughs, planters, cultivators, harrows, grounnut shellers, high wing ridgers and hoes.
Last year, the RBZ announced that it had increased the export incentive only for top exporters from five percent to 12.5 percent to encourage foreign exchange generation.
Mr Chigwada said due to limited access to foreign currency, Mealie Brand was failing to acquire raw materials on time, a development that might affect their preparedness for the coming season.
He called on the RBZ to give his company top priority in foreign currency allocation as it was the only company in the country and one of two in the region with the kind of implements they were producing.
“Our major challenge is lack of the major raw material which is steel due to the closure of Zisco.
“We now have to import most of the steel that we need and foreign currency has been coming in dribs and drabs.
“Our business is seasonal and we are starting the season soon and we need to be ready with the product in the right quantities.
“That preparedness has been compromised by the failure to get raw materials coming on time because of the foreign currency shortage,” said Mr Chigwada.
Presenting the 2018 monetary policy statement last week, RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya said the intervention by the monetary authority in the foreign exchange market through $1.1 billion nostro stabilisation facilities drawdowns last year significantly assisted in sustaining the financing of critical imports.
He said a good number of manufacturing firms in sectors such as food products, packaging, fertilisers, agro–chemicals and fuel distribution have greatly benefited from the nostro-stabilisation facilities.