Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
The country’s grain millers require more than $130 million for retooling in order to operate at full capacity and to cushion against the impact of flour imports on the industry. Speaking at the Second Buy Zimbabwe Baking Industry Stakeholders Conference yesterday, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said there was need for massive investment in the milling industry to boost capacity and viability.
“As you know milling equipment is expensive there should be investment in the sector so that it can manage to sufficiently provide for the local industry. The milling industry is currently operating at 45 percent capacity and there is still more room for improvement,” said Mr Musarara.
Mr Musarara said last year millers had a target of wheat importation of 60 000 tonnes but they could only provide for 54 000 tonnes. He said this year they are targeting 75 000 tonnes.
During the peak period the bakery industry utilised over 400 000 tonnes of wheat supporting local farming and local milling.
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa emphasised support for the local industry but said there should be co-ordination within the bread value chain if the industry is to realise its growth potential.
She said the employment and production levels imply that the sub-sector has a potential to spur industry and agriculture growth, employment creation and consumer satisfaction.
Deputy Minister Mabuwa said in order to be competitive; the bakery industry’s focus has to include innovative design or redesign of new machines and methods so that bread is produced at the lowest possible time and cost.
“The viability of this sector depends on the value chain in the bakery industry, which includes wheat milling and the wheat production sectors.
“It is critical to identify the value chains in the bakery industry in order to enhance domestic production and supply of bakery products,” said the deputy minister.
She said there has been a lack of detailed and consolidated information on the structure of value chain in this specific industry which acts as a constraint to policy advocacy by stakeholders in which advocacy informs the design of trade and related policy interventions by Government.
Deputy Minister Mabuwa, however, said if these challenges stay unchecked, bakeries will either close down or opt to import their supplies that are otherwise available within the local market.
“This scenario, you agree with me, is not the best to grow the national economy,” she said.
Worth noting is the fact that annually, the local milling industry imports over 85 percent of its wheat requirements which allows the industry to supply over 90 percent of the industry’s flour requirements following the duty increases in 2014.
While there are arguments that imported wheat is of better quality; wheat imports have pushed the country’s import bill by $100 million.
The 400 000 tonnes of wheat produced at the country’s peak suggests that with concerted efforts towards supporting the farmer, the wheat import bill can significantly be reduced.