ZIMBABWE – The Zimbabwean government has lauded National Foods Limited (NatFoods) for its substantial investments aimed at reducing the nation’s high import bill for strategic food items, particularly cereals, flour and pasta.

The commendation comes as NatFoods continues its strategic investments, pouring nearly US$16 million into various production lines between 2023 and 2024, to bolster import substitution efforts.

Import substitution is a key priority in the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025) as Zimbabwe seeks to structurally transform its economy to increase manufactured value-added products.

Speaking during the National Foods Stirling Workington tour, Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Government was impressed by the firm’s immense contribution towards the growth of the local economy particularly the vision to import substitutes.

“I think it is very important for the nation to appreciate what our business sector is doing, contributing towards the growth of our economy.

“What impresses me more is that you are targeting those products where we are spending a lot of our hard-earned foreign currency, importing, Ndlovu said.

Recent statistics reveal that Zimbabwe’s import bill increased by 12 percent to US$1.41 billion in the initial two months of 2024, up from US$1.26 billion during the corresponding period in 2023, reflecting a trade deficit of US$234 million.

NatFoods’ investments have targeted critical sectors, including the establishment of a cereal extrusion plant valued at US$4.4 million, the replacement of a flour milling plant in Bulawayo with a US$6 million investment, and the launch of a pasta production line costing US$5.6 million.

According to the government, Zimbabwe, which annually imports an average of US$40 million worth of pasta, is poised to benefit significantly from NatFoods’ efforts to localize production.

With the capacity to produce approximately 1,200 tonnes of pasta monthly, NatFoods aims to address a substantial portion of the national demand, reducing reliance on imports predominantly sourced from Egypt and Mozambique.

Moreover, NatFoods’ forthcoming venture into biscuit production, with a planned investment of US$7.7 million, promises to further diminish imports, particularly from neighbouring South Africa and Zambia.

Mr. Michael Lashbrook, NatFoods’ Chief Executive Officer, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to curtailing the importation of essential food items, citing the substantial investments made in recent years.

Recently, the company invested US$ 30,000 in a youth empowerment programme in western parts of the country.

Dubbed “A Life A Day,” (ALAD), the programme aims to empower youths in rural Zimbabwe to develop sustainable livelihoods through enterprise development in the poultry sector.

The empowerment programme entails an egg-layer project through its stock feeds division, implemented in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe.

National Foods said by investing in youth and communities, the company was cultivating future prosperity and helping build a healthier, more sustainable Zimbabwe for all.

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