ZAMBIA – Zambian Breweries Plc, a subsidiary of AB InBev is championing commercialization of cassava through the production of Eagle Lager and is targeting to buy the crop from 5,000 farmers this year.

In 2019 the brewer bought a capped volume of 1,933 tonnes of cassava, creating farmer incomes of K2.554 million (US$140,000) for 729 farmers from Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces.

Zambian Breweries corporate affairs director Ezekiel Sekele said the proposed number of farmers might be affected by the coronavirus as the consumption of beer is projected to reduce due to the closure of bars and nightclubs, among others.

“We expect to start buying the crop during the harvest season, which runs from June to October. We are targeting about 5,000 farmers.”

Zambian Breweries established its cassava project in 2016. Through the project the brewer is ensuring economic diversification, job creation and setting new grounds for agriculture sustainability for the nation.

The brewer’s parent company AB InBev has setup measures to help the cassava farmers improve their yields and keep track of payments.

Through the Cheembe / BanQu automated payment system, farmers are being financially empowered by assuring them of financial inclusion, identification, and transparency, enabling them to practise smart agriculture.

BanQu makes it easier for the local farmers to receive their money through its partners MTN and Airtel Mobile money platforms.

Since inception of the project, the brewer has bought more than 15,000 tonnes of dry cassava, giving a total income of over K21 million (US$1.5m) to the small-scale farmers.

According to the recently released company’s financial statement for the year ended December 2019, the brewer recorded a 17% increase in revenue of K2.092 billion (US$114.8m) from K1.787 billion (US$98m) recorded in the previous year.

The brewery earned a record breaking profit of K274.4 million (US$15m) a 27% rise from K216.6 million (US$11.8m) registered in 2018, attributed to the rise in volume sale of beer by 9%.

The growth in volume sales was driven primarily by superb performance of Eagle, Mosi Premium, Castle Lite and Carling Black Label lagers, as well as impressive growth in sales of imported Budweiser and Stella Artois.