BEVERAGE manufacturer Schweppes Zimbabwe and the 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.
The company is also looking at reviving another plant in Norton, expected to create 5 000 jobs, businessdigest has learnt.
Arda board chairman Basil Nyabadza told businessdigest on Wednesday in the capital that they were finalising agreements with Schweppes and the project is expected to begin soon. The project is owned by Arda and the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) with each owning a 50% equity stake. The project is the brainchild of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
“Schweppes, and Arda have done the necessary due diligence. The parties have complied with the necessary shareholder agreements, including management agreements and we are now finalising the toll processing agreements,” Nyabadza said.
He said the project would be carried out in two phases with Schweppes providing working capital of US$2,2 million. Nyabadza said the working capital would cater for the tomato seed outlay and engagement of technical staff, among other costs. “The project will commence under a phased roll out programme. The first phase will be in Norton in Zvimba district,” he said. “The second phase will be in Matabeleland South.”
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.
Nyabadza said farmers within the radius of the two plants would benefit as they will be contracted to grow, on an annual basis, a specific variety of tomatoes — the target being to process 100 tonnes daily at the Norton plant.
He said it means farmers will grow a specific variety of tomatoes with a market-led approach unlike the current situation where farmers just grow any kind of tomatoes without targeting a specific market segment.
Nyabadza said seed varieties would be provided to farmers to ensure the quality of the product is not compromised. He said the project will create between 300-400 permanent jobs while downstream activities are expected to create between 4 000-5 000 jobs.
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.
Nyabadza said they had already engaged staff at the authority to identify potential farmers for training.
Schweppes Zimbabwe MD Charles Msipa told businessdigest this week that negotiations with Arda “have progressed very well” and expected to conclude the talks soon.
Machinery that is still to be used includes electric motors, storage tanks, piping material, steamers, mixers, among various farming implements like tractors, harvesters and sorting machines.'