By Prosper Ndlovu
Blue Ribbon Foods Limited has re-hired about 300 of its former workers following the takeover by Tanzanian milling giant, Bakhresa Group, which has injected $20 million initial capital into the firm.
The group sealed the takeover deal in 2015 and immediately invested $20 million in recapitalisation of the milling company and cleared liabilities to creditors, workers and banks.
The firm had been dormant with declining output for the last four years due to funding constraints and only resumed full production in Harare and Bulawayo late last year.
Blue Ribbon general manager in charge of projects and marketing, Mr Yusuf Kamau, said yesterday that the firm was back on its feet.
“When we came in we took back all our former workers who had lost jobs. Initially we started with 150 employees and later added more to 200 and now we are about 300,” said Mr Kamau at a press briefing after a tour of the company’s Belmont plant by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Bulawayo.
“Our desire is to create more job opportunities here in Zimbabwe for locals in support of the Government, which engaged us to assist in revitalising industry.” Mr Kamau said the Blue Ribbon Bulawayo branch was dealing with maize milling and has a capacity of producing some 150 tonnes of maize per day, which translates to close to 5 000 tonnes per month and more than 50 000 tonnes per year.
“With this capacity added to National Foods capacity, it means that the southern region should be self sufficient with the milled product.
“We are also doing wheat milling in Harare, which does some 100 000 tonnes of wheat per year. What we know is that Zimbabwe requires 360 000 tonnes and Blue Ribbon is able to cater for more than 25 percent,” he said.
“We have other millers, all added together we have over capacity in terms of milling. In term of maize millers can do more than double output, which means we do not require to import wheat and maize meal.
“What we can do should we have challenges is to buy raw material and then process it here such that we create employment here for our own people and farmers who will grow the needed grains. By supporting what is produced in Zimbabwe we will enable our population to consume these products.” In his remarks Acting President Mnangagwa said Blue Ribbon’s revival was a success story.
He commended the Tanzanian investors for bringing back to life one of the biggest companies in the country.
He said the return of Blue Ribbon has already resulted in a 15 percent drop in prices, which is good for consumers.
The Acting President said the Government would continue to engage the private sector with the view to creating a conducive environment for business growth.
Acting Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Joseph Made said the resuscitation of Blue Ribbon Foods was a milestone in the job creation thrust of Government.
Prospects look brighter for the revived company in view of measures such as Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, put by the Government in supporting local industries.
Statutory Instrument 64 removes several goods, which are locally available, from the open general import licence as part of measures to increase market share for local firms.
Blue Ribbon Foods required $40 million in fresh funding for recapitalisation, working capital and clearing over $30 million liabilities, including the cost of retrenching excess staff.
Funding challenges at Blue Ribbon had seen production falling to between 11 percent and 29 percent in the last few years.
Despite the financial problems, the company maintained its strong brand equity. Its leading products include Chibataura and Ngwerewere. The Herald