Thupeyo Muleya-Beitbridge Bureau
The Government yesterday called Schweppes to order and revoked the privileges allowing them to import duty-free raw material to use at their Beitbridge Juicing plant.
It is understood that the juicing plant had despite being allowed to import duty-free 10 000 tonnes of oranges and 5 000 tonnes of oranges been selling the by-products exclusively in foreign currency against the dictates of the initial agreement with the government.
Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, Mr George Guvamatanga yesterday wrote to the company’s managing director, Mr Charles Msipa informing him about the government’s reservations with their actions.
He said on July 1, 2022, the government provided a once-off suspension of duty facility to the company to import 10 000 tonnes of oranges and 5 000 tonnes of grapefruits.
Mr Guvamatanga said the move was meant to augment local supplies, thereby minimising supply disruptions, as well as guaranteeing affordable prices to the general public.
“Treasury, however, notes that the pricing of your products is now exclusively in foreign currency, notwithstanding the Government’s initiatives to promote the use of local currency,” said the official.
“You will be aware that beneficiaries of tax incentives are expected to complement the government interventions with responsible pricing models with a view to ensuring affordability of goods which is key in achieving government development objectives.
In view of the above, I wish to advise that pending investigation on your pricing model, the suspension of duty facility has been revoked, in this regard, all-new imported consignments will with immediate effect be liable to duty at prescribed rates”.
Mr Msipa confirmed the development last night, saying he would engage the Government to find common ground on the misunderstanding.
He said they were looking forward to ironing out all the issues of concern in the shortest possible time.
The official told the Herald recently that currently that they are processing around 20 000 tonnes of fruits annually at the Beitbridge juice plant against a target of at least 40 000.
He said the local fruit producers were struggling to meet the feedstock target considering that they were producing for both the local and export market.
“Citrus production has shifted from the country’s northern region (Mazowe) to the southern region (Beitbridge), where climatic conditions were very conducive.
“We are seized with the preliminary works which will see us moving to the land at Zhovhe dam, where there is plenty of water for irrigation-based farming,” said Mr Msipa.
He said they were working on setting up a 2700 hectares of citrus plantation as it seeks to increase production and valued addition at its Beitbridge Juice Processing Plant.
Mr Msipa said to enhance community development in Beitbridge, 300 hectares at the new citrus plantation had been reserved for use by members supported by Schweppes.
The dwindling stocks, he said, had been necessitated by the fact that land on citrus had reduced from around 10 000 hectares to between 4000 and 5000 hectares.
He said the citrus greenfield would come with significantly increased programs they intend to introduce