Work begins on US$20m tobacco processing plant

Voedsel Group chief executive officer Innocent Mahufe

A TOBACCO contractor said this week it will be investing US$20 million to set up a processing facility in Beatrice near Harare.

Voedsel Group chief executive officer Innocent Mahufe said the plant was expected to be commissioned in December.

He said the plant would have capacity to process 14 tonnes of tobacco per hour.

Under the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan, the country seeks to boost earnings from the golden leaf through value-addition.

Government has been pushing for investments into processing plants to help Zimbabwe increase exports of value-added agricultural commodities.

“We are building a 14-tonne per hour tobacco processing plant, which will be commissioned around December or January next year,” Mahufe said during a media tour of the project. “All the work that you are seeing here would be done by that time.

“This is a US$20 million investment. Indigenous tobacco merchant companies who do not have a chance to process at other third party manufacturing companies will be able to be housed here.”

Mahufe said the firm had more than 15 000 smallholder farmers under contract, and it would be scaling up production to match the plant’s capacity.

Last year, the firm produced 20 million kilogrammes, but this will be increased to 30 million kg, he said.

Voedsel is already exporting to different countries, such as Dubai, South Africa, Egypt, the Middle East and China.

Voedsel finance director Gerald Murape said the group planned to enter the cigarette manufacturing market.

 “Our long-term plan is forward integration into cigarette manufacturing. In the very short to medium term, we are looking at forward integration into cigarettes,” Murape said.

“That is where the value chain ends. Once we are done with this plant, we are going to be putting a cigarette manufacturing plant right here in Beatrice.

“It is going to be an investment of more than US$10 million. If you see what happened last season, tobacco production went up from 260 million kg in 2022 to 294 million kg.

“There was just a need for us to make an investment in a tobacco processing machine to make sure that we are able to absorb that growth in capacity,” Murape said.

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