BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
ZIMBABWE’S fast-growing beverages maker, Varun Beverages said it planned to expand its operations in the country despite commissioning a US$12 million water bottling plant at its Harare operation on Wednesday.
Varun holds the Pepsi franchise in Zimbabwe.
The new 400 bottle per minute line brought the firm’s cumulative investment in Zimbabwe to US$66 million, according to its billionaire Indian chairman Ravi Jaipuria, who spoke exclusively to NewsDay Business after commissioning the line.
He said the operation, which produced its first soft drinks in 2018, had been overwhelmed by domestic demand and present capacity was struggling to serve the market.
Jaipuria implored President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to avail an additional 10 hectares of land to help the firm scale up its expansion drive, as it explores export opportunities in a string of southern African markets.
“We are looking at new avenues of expansion, and we are increasing our exports to Zambia, Malawi and the DRC.
“That is why you have seen the minister of industry from the DRC is here,” Jaipuria told NewsDay Business.
“We request the government to allocate an additional 10 hectares in and around Harare because the present space is no longer enough.
“This is now the third phase of our investment carried out by launching the packaged drinking water named Aquaclear.
“The production capacity of this line will be 15 million bottles per month. With this third phase of investment the total production capacity will be 66 million bottles of sparkling beverages, cans and bottled water per month.
“The total investment with the completion of the third phase is almost US$66 million,” he said.
Varun created about 2 000 direct jobs in Zimbabwe, in addition to over 1 500 others in downstream industries.
Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was ready to address challenges being faced by investors.
He implored the firm to tell other investors in India that Zimbabwe is ready to embrace them under its new strategy to transform into an African force.