Zimbabwe has run out of potatoes for making potato crisps, prompting a company in Southerton industrial area to approach government seeking an urgent import permit to buy potatoes from South Africa, as heavy rainfall affected local supply.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Hanawa Super Foods, a potato chips company, made the appeal to the Industry and Commerce ministry on Monday, as it seeks to step up efforts to fill in gaps created by Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of June 2016, which banned foreign made potato crisps.
The company’s managing director, Simbarashe Zhou, told NewsDay after a tour of their facilities on Monday in Harare that they invested about $3 million into their business and as such desperately needed to import potatoes to get returns.
“At 80%, which is a realistic achievement, we are looking at producing about 500kgs an hour, which is 9 600 and 10 000kgs of finished product per day because we are supposed to be doing two shifts of 10 hours each. But, due to shortages of raw materials, we are only just running a day shift,” he said.
“Due to the above normal rainfall that we had, our potato farming shifted people to start planting potatoes beginning of March, so what was in the country was completely exhausted. There are no potatoes currently in the country.”
Zhou said they needed assistance in the facilitation of nostro fund allocation from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to enable them to get foreign currency to import potatoes.
Zimbabwe has three planting seasons — summer (November to before the end of the rainy season), first winter crop (February to April), and the second winter crop (July to early August).
The summer crops bring in the most yields, but the heavy rainfall affected crops by having increased sprouting.
Hanawa Super Foods is seeking to import 1 200 tonnes of potatoes from May to September 2017.
Industry and Commerce minister, Mike Bimha told Hanawa Super Foods that they would look into their requests.
“The last meeting I had, which was the meeting between the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and a number of representations from the private sector. There are measures that he (central bank governor, John Mangudya) was going to take,” Bimha said.
“Unfortunately, we have been so busy, so I have not gone back to him to find out exactly how far he had gone.”
Zhou said they also needed a working capital facility of $790 000 to fund the raw material requirements for 45 days of continuous production, which translated to an output of 2 500 tonnes of finished product per annum.
Following SI64 of 2016, the Cold Chain group, who enjoyed the lion’s share of the potato chip market as distributors of Lays and Simba chips, recorded decreased business.
Currently, Cairns Foods’ flagship potato crisps product, Chompkins, is dominating that space.
Potato crisps have an estimated local demand of 250 tonnes per month.