Sunday, 4 August 2019

NO THANK YOU : SMALL BAKERIES REJECT GOVT LOANS


THE Government has identified eight small to medium enterprises (SMEs) bakeries for recapitalisation as it moves to resuscitate the depressed bread-making industry.

Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said about 100 small bakeries from across the country have approached the ministry seeking funding for recapitalisation.

“A total of 98 small bakeries approached the ministry seeking financial assistance. Some of them needed retooling while others were seeking working capital. After realising the overwhelming number of bakeries we identified only eight and linked them with (SMEDCO) Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation for funding. However, some seem to be reluctant to apply for loans citing high interest rates,” she said. 

Most small to medium bakeries have over the last two decades closed shop due to a myriad of economic challenges. The industry is now dominated by three major players — Lobel’s, Innscor Africa (Innscor)’s Baker’s Inn and Marondera-based Proton.

These major players have scaled down operations drastically, citing viability problems and calling for an expeditious determination of the price review application.

Dr Nyoni said the Government was also encouraging the establishment of community-led bakeries to increase the production of confectionery products, including bread, at affordable prices in rural areas.

“We are encouraging the establishment of community bakeries as well as consumption of alternative foods for breakfast. We have a number of traditional foods, which people can eat as substitute for bread,” she said. 

The country has over the last three weeks been experiencing bread shortages due to crippling wheat imports for the production of flour. Some shops have taken advantage of the situation to sell bread for as much as $6. Some bakeries have also been accused of supplying the black market.

National Bakers’ Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Dennis Wallah said the industry was operating at about 40 percent due to inadequate flour supplies.

“We have been facing challenges due to shortage of flour and electricity load shedding and this has affected our production. Most bakeries are operating at about 40 percent capacity because of these challenges,” he said.

However, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe national chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said wheat imports have started improving following the Government’s call to allow private players to move the grain into the country.

“Wheat imports have started coming in from Beira (Mozambique) and we are grateful for the dispensation we got from Government to allow private sector to import 100 000 metric tonnes of wheat and clear the pipeline before GMB (Grain Marketing Board) becomes the exclusive importer of wheat. The entire East and African region is in a net importing position currently and the Zimbabwe situation is not unique. In order to deliver and guarantee availability of the flour and bread, Government safety nets in the wheat value chain are welcome,” he said. Sunday News

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