Zimbabwe’s Ariston Holdings Limited, a horticultural produce operation, has injected funds in technology to improve production as the shortage of manpower hits its estates.
The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company is facing serious farm labour shortages as potential employees opt to venture into the lucrative illegal gold mining than work on the estates.
In a trading update for the first quarter ended December 31, 2021, and released Monday Ariston said the company had instead opted for automation.
Last year, Ariston sold Claremont Orchads Holdings for US$2 million after selling 50% of its shareholding in the company to the Netherlands-based Tuinbouw Zonder Grenzen BV.
According to the company’s secretary Acquiline Chinamo, part of the funding of the new technology purchased was from the proceeds from Charemont Orchads Holdings in Nyanga, Manicaland province.
“During the first quarter, the group received proceeds from the disposal of 50% of its shareholding in Claremont Orchards Holdings (Private) Limited to Tuinbouw Zonder Grenzen BV,” she said.
“The proceeds from the transaction were used to develop new as well as improve established macadamia orchards, expand macadamia drying facilities and purchase equipment for automation of some processes to counteract the effects of labour shortage in Chipinge.
“The automation process implemented is expected to yield better production volumes as available labour is allocated to harvesting tea,” Chinamo said in a commentary.
As a consequence of this transaction, the fruit category has been excluded from the production and sales statistics.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the group from the legislated lockdowns to encountering shortages in containers for export product and delays in shipping.
The constraints being encountered by shipping lines such as shortage of shipping containers for the export product as well as the importation of materials required by the group.
“Locally the group has largely been affected by the pandemic as measures implemented to protect staff members have continued to be strictly monitored and adhered to,” she added.
In December, Ariston said Grenzen would pour fresh funding into the business.
The transaction enabled the entry of a foreign shareholder who has undertaken to provide significant funding for expansion of Claremont orchards into high-value fruit and flower offerings primarily for the export market.
“It is envisaged that the sum of the two investments will provide Ariston shareholders with greater value than current. Regulatory approval for the transaction has been received and the sale proceeds were received shortly after year-end,” Ariston noted.
The holding company reported a 19% decrease in revenue during the review period, driven mostly by the exclusion of its fruit business from the financial statements after the Grenzen transaction.
Ariston Holdings is one of the most diversified agro-industrial concerns listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Its business interests span a variety of crops, including tea, macadamia, banana, apples, potatoes, peas, maize, soya beans. It is also involved in poultry and beef cattle.
Listed in 1948, its six strategic business units are; Blended Tea Factory, Clearwater Estate, Kent Estate, Roscommon Estate and Southdown Estate.
By Lawrence Paganga