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Schweppes sees huge potential in citrus fruit production

BEITBridge Juicing (BBJ), a unit of Schweppes Holdings Africa Limited, says there is huge untapped potential for investment in citrus production in Zimbabwe.

BEITBridge Juicing (BBJ), a unit of Schweppes Holdings Africa Limited, says there is huge untapped potential for investment in citrus production in Zimbabwe.


Shashe co-operative members pick oranges for processing into orange juice in Beitbridge on Tuesday

Unaiswi Nyikadzino, the beverage maker’s commercial director, revealed that current suppliers were struggling to meet local demand for citrus fruit.

Nyikadzino was speaking during a media tour of Schweppes’ BeitBridge Juicing plant, which has operated since 2006.

“You will find that other major suppliers globally are Brazil and Florida and these have been significantly affected by the greening disease,” Nyikadzino said.

“So, we have had some of them cutting down their plantations and having to start from scratch. But I think global demand is higher than what current suppliers can do, hence there will always be a market for citrus and even its oils.”

BBJ is the only local supplier of juice concentrate in Zimbabwe at the moment. However, it can only afford to meet half of the demand for juice concentrate by major beverage companies like Schweppes and Delta Beverages.

Citrus farmers currently export about 70% of the fresh fruit, while 20% is locally processed, with the rest being consumed as fresh fruit.

Nyikadzino said Schweppes had engaged the Agriculture ministry to have more land allocated to citrus fruit growing.

“We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to try and influence some of the decisions that are made in terms of land and also to educate them on the potential that is there for investment in citrus fruit,” he said.

“I think the most critical issue is the land tenure. International investors want security in terms of the land, so we have been working with the Ministry of Agriculture and they have been understanding.”

BBJ head of operations, Charles Tembo, also disclosed that the beverage processor had partnered with various non-governmental organisations to give inputs to farmers under the Shashe Irrigation Scheme to increase the output of oranges.

“Shashe Irrigation Scheme comprises more than 200 families and they have 92 hectares,” Tembo said.

“We have tried supporting communities by giving them some inputs and we have partnered with some non-governmental organisations to sponsor them.”

Schweppes says it plans to expand its juicing plants around Zimbabwe, which would enlarge the market for the citrus fruit and create employment as well.