AGRICULTURE and agro-processing firm, Hippo Valley is focusing on developing new markets in addition to existing regional and high-end international markets to generate more foreign currency to meet its import needs.

In its trading update for the first quarter ended June 30, 2023, Hippo Valley said the current marketing initiatives were focused on growing and optimising returns from both local and premium export sales.

“While the local market remains pivotal for the industry, management prioritises efficient fulfilment of commitments to existing regional and premium international markets as well as development of new markets, necessary for the generation of additional foreign currency to sustain the industry’s requirements for critical imports,” the company said.

Total industry sugar production for the 2023/24 season forecast stands at 414 773 tonnes, compared to 396 682 tonnes produced last season.

However, the figure is still well below the nameplate industry capacity of 600 000 tonnes.

Hippo said the industry was implementing both vertical (yield and quality improvements) and horizontal strategies (new developments) to improve capacity utilisation in the medium to long term.

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In particular, planned plough out and replant programmes and introduction of new varieties is seen significantly improving yields in future seasons.

Meanwhile, the company’s share of the total industry sugar sales volume stood at 91 239 tonnes for the three months under review.

The company’s sales volumes were at 52,12% of total industry volumes, down from the comparable period last year of 54,50%.

Industry sugar sales into the domestic market for the same period, amounting to 87 816, was 4% above the comparable period in the prior year.

It was attributed to firm demand from industrial customers during the quarter.

Zimbabwe Sugar Sales (Private) Limited is the marketing desk for all raw and sun sweet brown sugar produced by industry.

“Revenue realisation on the local market, in both local and foreign currency, remained firm as most customers continued to support local brands for the better part of the first quarter although volume decline was evident in the last weeks of June 2023 as the impact of duty-free sugar imports set in,” the update said.

“Various measures are being implemented to defend market share on the domestic market.

"Industry exports amounted to 3 423 tonnes with the differential being due to the fact that in the prior year there were carry-over export allocations which were rolled over while in the current year the bulk of the export orders will be processed in the second and third quarters of the year."

Historic revenue realised in the first quarter grew by 785% to US$131,9 billion from US$14,9 billion recorded during the same period last year on the back of price adjustments in response to hyperinflationary pressures.

In inflation adjusted terms, the revenue stood at US$231,4 billion from US$171,4 billion recorded in the previous period.

The company aims to heighten its sustainable development practices both in its processes and within the community in which it operates, with special focus on improving its environmental, social, and governance footprint.