26 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Revived Cairns Eyes Export Market

Local foods processor, Cairns Foods, is eyeing regional markets following a recent plant upgrade and increase in production.

Managing director, Nancy Guzha said the recently-capitalised firm had initially suspended export plans but was now looking at penetrating the Zambian and Mozambican markets in the first half of 2018.

"Initially, we had decided to hold off exports until 2019 or 2020 because you can't hope to be a good exporter until you have saturated the local market. So our strategy was to operate the local market and then maybe two or three years from now, start with the rest of the region," Guzha said at the recently-ended Zimtrade exporters conference.

At its peak, the firm used to export canned fruit to Europe and Scandinavian countries.

Guzha, who is also chairperson of the Groceries Manufacturers Association, said government needed to make Zimbabwe an export processing zone to give the country's uncompetitive manufacturers an advantage.

"Our cost structures are too high compared to regional competitors and we are also competing with companies whose governments offer them heavy incentives... So if they made the country an export processing zone it would go a long way in helping local manufactures," she said.

Last year, Cairns ramped up capacity utilisation from 40 percent to 70 percent after the holding company was placed under judicial management in 2013 before it was taken over by a new investor, Takura Capital in 2015.

Takura Capital now controls 90 percent shareholding in Cairns and will invest $7 million into the food processor as part of the revival plan.

Following the commissioning of a new baked beans plant at the factory in 2016, the factory closed 2016 at 70 percent capacity.

With over 200 employees, the Cairns' baked beans plant sourced from China at a cost of $200 000 has a capacity to produce 105 000 tins of Cashel Valley Baked Bins per day.

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