Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe Limited is set to establish a 4 000 hectare citrus plantation in Beitbridge with an estimated value of US$60 million in a development set to increase production and exports.
In an interview after a recent Matabeleland South Provincial Development Committee meeting in Gwanda, Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited managing director, Mr Charles Msipa, said the project will see their subsidiary, Beitbridge Juicing (Private) Limited, reach 100 percent capacity utilisation as it was around 50 percent.
He said the juicing plant was relying on commercial farms in Beitbridge for supply of oranges and hoped the establishment of the new plantation will help increase feedstock to the plant. Mr Msipa said the project was expected to start next year and would be completed in the next five years.
“As Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited one of our subsidiaries is Beitbridge Juicing Limited, which procures fruits from commercial citrus growers in Beitbridge and processes it into juice. We are not able to secure enough fruit to fully utilise our juicing plant whose capacity is at 50 percent or below,” said Mr Msipa.
“We have managed to acquire a grant of a lease on 4 000 hectares of State land in Beitbridge where we will establish a citrus plantation. The product from the plantation will supply our juice plant to produce enough juice to meet the demand in the local and export market. It will also enable us to export fruit to fresh food markets.
“We plan to start actual work on the plantation next year and project will be phased over five years. Preliminary investment for the project will be US$60 million and we are set to raise the full funding.”
During the last quarter of this year, Mr Msipa said Schweppes will conduct preliminary works, which include verifying how much land of the 4 000 hectares is arable. He said proceeds from 400 hectares of the project will go towards the Community Share Ownership Trust in Beitbridge in order to support development projects in the area in giving back to the community.
He said the project will also create employment for community members as the bulk of the job will be given to locals.
Mr Msipa said the company was also committed to supporting the community in livestock production.
“Citrus projects are a long term venture but once the project is fully operational, Beitbridge with become a citrus hub for the country. The project will not benefit Matabeleland South Province but the entire country as it will increase revenue inflow,” he said.
“We are confident that the project will be a success considering projected demand in regional and global markets for juice and fruit. Beitbridge is also ideal with agronomic conditions for production of citrus as well as water in abundance in the form of Zhovhe Dam.”
Speaking on behalf of the One Stop Investment Service Centre chairperson, Dr Washington Mbizvo, Mr Rueben Zinhumwe said their role was to supervise implementation of investment projects once they had been approved by the President. He said investors had to ensure that communities they were operating within benefited through community share ownership trusts. He said they will, therefore, be monitoring how the plantation project will progress.
Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Abednico Ncube, expressed gratitude to Schweppes for investing in the project saying the investment would boost the province’s economy.
He urged the company to ensure they fully utilised the land they had been given in order to record full production. — @DubeMatutu