ZIMBABWE – Manufacturing industries have been hard hit by the collapse of agriculture, with industry being forced to import raw materials that were previously available locally.

Bulawayo-based United Refineries, producers of cooking oil, washing and bathing soap, is being forced to import crude oil, soya beans and cotton seed from South Africa, owing to ZImbabwe’s failed agriculture.

United Refineries chief executive officer, Busisa Moyo said his company was importing seed and crude oil to meet local demand because the seed, which used to come from lint producers, had dried out.

“We used to get 200 000 tonnes of seed every season and this was sufficient to meet local demand and exports, but now the capacity in the lint sector is there but not in use,” he said.

Moyo said if demand was to be met locally, close to 30 000 hectares with a yield of two tonnes per hectare should be put under oil seeds like cotton, which is drought resistant, and soya beans.

The cotton sector has almost collapsed owing to a fall in producer prices and the near collapse of Cottco, which the government wants to takeover in the hope of resuscitating farming of the crop.

Moyo said the industry has been allowed to fail because government has failed to act on side marketing of contracted crop.

“The solution is simple, criminalise side buying and selling and that practice will stop. Both the seller and buyer should be criminally liable for buying contracted crop,” he said.

Lobels Biscuits and Sweets is also being forced to import flour to run its new biscuit making factory because locally flour is of poor quality.

“When we bought the new machine, we realised that local flour could not even make a biscuit, it was too sticky and could not pass through the machine, so we are being forced to import flour for production of biscuits,” managing director, Clinton Lecluse said.