Natfoods expects ‘consistent’ product supply despite worst drought in years

National Foods, the country’s biggest food producer, says it is moving to ensure that it meets market demand after the worst drought in years.

In the six months to December, Natfoods suffered a 9.5% drop in the maize division. This was mostly because its Red Seal and Better Buy maize meal brands faced increased competition from smaller millers and duty-free imports. Sales were also affected by the price distortions caused by the exchange rate forced on formal retailers. While the Red Seal and Better brands suffered, Natfoods’ premium brand Pearlenta performed well, with volumes rising by 7%.

But a bigger threat ahead is the drought, which government says will cut the maize harvest by up to 70% this year. The company says it is setting out a response.

“National Foods has a substantial import program in place for raw maize, and it is expected that supplies to the market will be consistent for the foreseeable future,” says Natfoods in its Half-year results. “The current summer crop has been seriously impacted by the ongoing drought affecting the region, and the necessary planning is now underway to ensure consistent product supply over the next year.”

Natfoods buys most of the privately funded wheat in the country. The company says Zimbabwe had “a very encouraging 2023 local wheat crop being harvested”, and it has bought 60,000 tonnes from farmers.

Says the company: “National Foods continues to keenly support contract farming of various cereal crops, principally maize, soya beans and wheat. The Group acts as the largest offtaker to the A Growth contract farming scheme, which produced 45,000 tons of wheat for the 2023 season, all of which was purchased by National Foods. For the current summer season, around 5,200 hectares of maize and 2,400 hectares of soya have been planted under this scheme.”

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