THE Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Mike Bimha, has applauded Government policies that are propelling quick-wins in employment creation, value addition and beneficiation projects downstream.
He said this last Saturday during a tour of the new soap and cooking oil manufacturing plant, Willowton Zimbabwe in Mutare.
Willowton Zimbabwe which also manufactures D’lite cooking oil, Sona bath soap and the Brite Lite green bar laundry soap is a subsidiary of the South African based Willowton Group.
Dr Bimha said this in view of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 that banned importation of various locally manufactured goods including groceries and building materials.
He said SI64 was prompting investors into the country, citing Willowton Zimbabwe as an upshot of the policy.
“One of the benefits arriving from SI64 is that some of the companies that were exporting to Zimbabwe realised these measures (under SI64) were depriving them of business and they strategically set up shops and industry here. This has not only generated employment, but it also encouraged local competition which is healthy, as it has an effect on fair pricing, quality and continuous improvements on efficiencies,” said the minister.
He added that when Government came up with SI64, it did not ban products, but just regulated certain imports on the basis of the country’s ability to produce some specific products citing that one of the biggest beneficiaries was the oil expressing sector.
“From as low as 20 percent capacity utilisation at that time the majority of oil expressers are now operating at full capacity and are making inroads into the export market,” he said.
Dr Bimha however, urged local producers to focus on efficiencies, cost cutting and competitiveness to remain competitive.
According to the Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe, the country currently consumes 10 000 tonnes of cooking oil per month, a demand which can easily be achieved by local producers.
In Zimbabwe, the major producers of cooking oil are Pure Oil, National Foods and United Refineries among many other smaller competitors.
Dr Bimha said a meeting with all oil expressers countrywide would be convened by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare at the end of this month to pursue options of Command Agriculture of soya beans and sunflower.
Willowton Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr Bruce Henderson, said the company currently employs 150 workers, but it hopes to employ over 400 as its production improves through value addition and beneficiation projects such as soya bean out-grower programmes and setting up of a crushing plant to process oil locally.
“For us to have an effective out-grower system, we need to have a crushing plant and that is one of the next steps investors are considering. So once we have that (crushing plant) it will help with the agricultural programmes to reduce the current importation of crude oil,” he said.
The Willowton plant has the capacity to produce 6 000 tonnes of cooking oil and 3 000 tonnes of soap or more if market demand improves.
Mr Henderson thanked the Government for is support in considering them on the foreign exchange priority list to facilitate the importation of raw materials not available in the country.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Cde Mandi Chimene who was part of the touring party said more needed to be done to encourage local consumers to buy locally manufactured goods under the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign.
“People in Manicaland and Zimbabwe at large, let us support Willowton to create jobs. Let us buy their D’lite cooking oil and Sona soaps, rather than the imported brands. The failure of Willowton is in our hands and so is the employment of your children,” she said.
She said smuggling of cheap finished goods banned under SI64 such as cooking oil and laundry soaps should be curbed.