Minister reassures Industry…Surface Wilmar seeks Govt intervention …New policies to ensure swift export business

Michael Tome Business Reporter

MINISTRY of Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi says his ministry will engage the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to craft a sustainable way of addressing some of the challenges currently bedevilling oil making firm, Surface Wilmar.

The company is one of the firms facing foreign currency challenges and recently electricity shortages which have resulted in decreased uptime for manufacturing operations.

Surface Wilmar resumed work in May after temporarily halting operations earlier this year citing challenges in accessing foreign currency which resulted in failure to meet foreign suppliers’ obligations.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Surface Wilmar tour Deputy Minister Raj Modi ensured that Government was working diligently to preserve industry’s confidence.

“I came to find out the kind of problems they are facing and how best we can help as Government to restore industry’s confidence.

“The first problem they are facing is foreign currency and the second one is power shortages . . . on foreign currency, we are going to arrange a meeting with the Finance Minister so that we come up with a strategy or some sort of solutions to challenges they are facing,” said Minister Modi.

Given the barriers currently limiting the company’s exports, Minister Modi highlighted that his ministry was crafting policies that would ensure swift export business, to earn the much-needed foreign currency.

“We want to give some incentive so that they can export some of their surplus product.

“We are working on creating platform for
ease to do business for the investors to make sure
that exporting does not require a lot paperwork,” he said.

Surface Wilmar chief executive officer Mr Sylvester Mangani indicated that the 16- 18 hours power outages had resulted in serious reduction in capacity utilisation to just about 15 percent of the normal operations.

“We have been operating below 15 percent capacity utilisation and those are big numbers. Basically we are not running.

“We expect to be producing anything like 8 000 tonnes per month and right now our production is 1 500 so we are well off the mark,” he said.

Surface Wilmar is a joint venture between the Singapore head-quartered agribusiness group, Wilmar and Midex Global of India and one of the biggest employers in the local cooking oil industry.