via Mugabe offers ice cream amid hardships – DailyNews Live 21 August 2015
HARARE – Amid the economic hardships in the country, President Robert Mugabe’s family-owned company Alpha Omega is now offering a new range of ice creams and chocolates.
Alpha Omega already produces liquid milk products, yoghurts and other dairy products.
The Zimbabwean dairy manufacturing industry, controlled by Dairibord Holdings, said on Thursday last week that the local market demand for dairy products was faltering, forcing it to switch focus to the Mozambican, South African and Zambian export markets.
Economists said Zimbabwe’s manufacturing base was shrinking, with current capacity utilisation below 40 percent amid pressure on retailers to lower prices.
The new range of ice cream sticks, cones and cups as well as chocolates launched by Mugabe’s company was in pursuit of value addition, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha said in a speech read on his behalf at the Mugabe estate in Mazowe.
Zimbabwe had resorted to heifer imports to boost its dairy cow herd and lift milk production in the country, with annual milk production currently averaging 55 million litres.
The Zimbabwe Dairy Services Department said raw milk production in Zimbabwe for the first six months to June 2015 had increased only marginally by 2 percent.
“We have invested a lot into research and development of these new products. We are competing with a company (Dairibord Holdings) that has been existing for a long time while we have been in existence for only two-and-a-half years,” said Alpha Omega general manager Stanley Nhari.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made lauded the company for adding a new range of products to its portfolio.
He said the Mugabes have already taken up about 30 percent of the market share for locally manufactured dairy products, adding that the country currently had a herd of about 33 000 dairy cows.
Zimbabwe was battling an economic crisis that had seen the country sink into deflation, amid company closures and job losses business executives said will further stretch disposable incomes.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank had advised Zimbabwe that it needed to limit public expenditure, adding that salaries in the country were too high.
“Most of the companies are battling to sustain operations and stay afloat in this current environment. Most companies are unable to access financing for capital ventures,” said an executive at a business and advisory company in Harare.
Economists said the industry and manufacturing sectors were in need of urgent retooling and access to affordable capital.
The central bank this month capped interest rates for banks at 18 percent, in a bid to address the high interest rate situation.
However, critics attributed this to the country’s high risk perception and rising default rates precipitated by economic difficulties.