December 9, 2011


Nestle sets on US$14-million dairy revamp scheme



Nestle Zimbabwe is working on a US$14-million dairy revival project and will import 2,000 dairy heifers from South Africa for its contracted and new farmers.


This would raise its milk intake from the current 3.5 million litres a year to about 28 million litres over a seven-year investment period.


The Switzerland-headquartered infant foods and cereals producer said it had targeted both commercial and smallholder farmers across the country.


The project will start in Nestle's biggest milk supply market of Mashonaland East Province, followed by Midlands and Matabeleland North. Manicaland Province will be next, followed by the rest of the country.


Already, 200 heifers have been imported from South Africa and 100 were presented to four farmers at the launch of the project in Kwekwe on Tuesday (Dec 6).


The predominantly Jersey, Friesland and Jersey-Friesland cross breed heifers imported from the Eastern Cape cost an average US$1,700 each.


Nestle Zimbabwe country manager Kumbirai Katsande said it was not the first time they were helping farmers with heifers to enhance raw milk supply.


Under the dairy revival project, Nestle pledged technical and financial help to the contracted farmers, who supply most of the firm's raw milk. During the hyperinflationary period, the firm helped the farmers with stockfeeds, diesel, electricity generators, irrigation equipment and dairy cows.


Katsande said the company was presently only able to get 15% of volumes required for its wide range of milk-based products.


The dairy revival project follows an ongoing US$27 million capital expenditure, which Katsande said demonstrated Nestle's commitment to Zimbabwe.


The investment at the Southerton plant was designed to increase production capacity and improve efficiencies.


"Some of the new products are for regional export markets, including Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and southern DR Congo," said Katsande.


Nestle is the manufacturer of such brands as Cerevita, Cerelac, Everyday, Nesquik, Ricoffy, Milo, Nescafe, Nido and the Maggi powder soups.


But it is the ambitious dairy revival project the firm contends would sustain its operations and spawn a thriving indigenous dairy business.


A beneficiary under the project, Kudzai Chirima of Espy Farm in Hwedza, hailed the assistance in view of funding and electricity supply bottlenecks.


The multimillion-dollar dairy revival programme will establish milk production and collection centres in all the provinces.


Nestle contends that with a guaranteed market for the milk, dairy farming can be revived to the dizzy heights of the past.


Zimbabwe peviously had a national milk production capacity of 260 million litres a year, which has declined to only 50 million litres.


The country will have to adopt a two-pronged approach to rebuild the dairy herd and increase milk production by breeding locally and importing. The dairy herd has declined from 200,000 (in the 1990s) to 40,000.

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