Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited has undertaken to invest US$35 million in the next 10 years into a 2 700 hectare citrus plantation as it seeks to increase production and valued addition at its Beitbridge Juice Processing Plant.
In a recent interview, the company’s managing director Mr Charles Msipa, said currently they are processing around 20 000 tonnes of fruit annually against a target of at least 40 000.
He said the local fruit producers were struggling to meet the feedstock target considering that they were producing for both the local and export market.
Mr Msipa said to enhance community development in Beitbridge, 300 hectares at the new citrus plantation had been reserved for use by members supported by Schweppes.
The dwindling stocks, he said, had been necessitated by the fact that land on citrus had reduced from around 10 000 hectares to between 4 000 and 5 000 hectares.
“Citrus production has shifted from the country’s northern region (Mazowe) to the southern region (Beitbridge), where climatic conditions were very conducive.
“We are seized with the preliminary works which will see us moving to the land at Zhovhe Dam, where there is plenty of water for irrigation-based farming,”
said Mr Msipa.
He said the citrus greenfield would come with significantly increased programmes they intend to introduce. Among these are producing more fruits for processing various products for the local and export markets.
Mr Msipa said the company had already constructed a mini-solar power plant to boost electricity supplies at the Beitbridge Juice Processing plant.
“Currently, we are processing oranges, lemons, and grapefruit into various by-products including juice and oils and stock feeds. The fruit juice concentrate is being used for concentrate to supply juice-containing beverages in the country,”
Mr Msipa added that they were also extracting oils from the grapefruit, lemons, and orange oils, which they are exporting to Europe and South Africa.
The peel that remains, he said, was a good ingredient for manufacturing stock feeds.
“This has come in handy in this region where livestock production is one of the major sources of livelihood,” he added.
Mr Msipa said they were also looking at increasing their staff contingent with the creation of the citrus green field at Zhovhe Dam.
He said currently they had hired more than 200 people from the areas adjacent to the Beitbridge Juice Processing Plant.
Some of the employees, he said, were being trained on juice processing and the manufacturing of stock feeds from fruit peels.
“Besides producing raw material for the local markets, we are exporting oils and frozen juice to Israel, European and other markets in need of the product.
“We are hopeful that in the not so distant future, we will get to a stage where we produce enough for the local plant’s production and extend our market share internationally,”
said Mr Msipa.
He said they were looking at introducing more programmes that will benefit communities in Beitbridge in line with the devolution concept.