Natfoods’ diesel usage is up 448% due to ZESA power cuts, just as it expands production

National Foods says its diesel usage went up by 448% over the past year, as power cuts worsened at a time when the country’s biggest food manufacturer is expanding production.

The company used 712 851 litres of diesel for generators in its last financial year, up from 129 921 litres in the previous year. For production, Natfoods used 559 028 versus 361 446 litres. The company used 41% less electricity than it did in the previous year, the result of ZESA power shortages.

“Business was more reliant on generators in FY2023 with 3,175 more hours of generator power which attributed to the 448% increase in usage,” Natfoods reports.

The company had to fire up generators at a time when it was commissioning new plants, including a new cereals plant. A new phase of that factory was commissioned recently, boosting Natfoods’ cereal volumes by 47% year-on-year with the launch of breakfast cereals.

Natfoods makes household brands such as Red Seal, Gloria, Better Buy and NutriActive.

Zimbabwe faces an energy crisis due to aged coal power units at Hwange and depressed hydropwer generation from Kariba due low water levels. Despite the addition of two new units at Hwange, power generation may get worse next year due to an anticipated drought that will further hit Kariba, plus breakdowns and scheduled repairs at Hwange.

To cut back on diesel, Natfoods is considering a 2MW solar plant.

“Working with Distributed Power Africa, a concept design of a 2MW solar installation at the Aspindale site has been generated and assessed. Although no firm plans for progressing the project have been approved, work continues on refining the concept and assessing the proposal,” says Natfoods.

In total, Natfoods produced volumes of 553,000 tonnes for the year to June this year, 3% below last year. The company is, however, seeing growth as it expands. It has built a new biscuit line and is about to commission a new pasta line to take advantage of demand.

“The line will be the only large-scale pasta line in the country and our objective is to meet the growing local demand for pasta. This represents, in our view, the exciting localisation of a key value chain, from the growing of the wheat locally to the importation of pasta, which until now has mostly been imported,” says Natfoods.