March 19, 2010 / 1:17 PM / 10 years ago

Zambia launches canning factory to export food

Zambia's President Rupiah Bwezani Banda addresses the 64th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia has resumed exports of canned food into southern Africa after reviving a 200-250 tonne agro-processing plant that collapsed during privatisation of state firms in the 1990s.

The factory, operated by food processing and canning firm Freshpikt, was commissioned by Zambian President Rupiah Banda late on Thursday, and will process baked beans, peanut butter, pineapple chunks and fresh fish mainly for export to South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“The plant has the potential to process about 200-250 tonnes of food per day but we are currently running at about 20 tonnes per day and hope to reach full capacity by mid next year,” Freshpikt Chief Executive Midge Drakes said.

The company’s chairman, Chance Kabaghe, said the factory was relaunched as part of Zambia’s plans to try and diversify its economy from copper and cobalt mining to agriculture.

The southern African country — Africa’s largest copper producer — currently uses only 10 percent of its 45 million hectares of arable land for farming.

Zambia, previously a net importer of maize, has turned around its agricultural sector to become a net exporter, following a government programme to provide subsidised pesticides and seed to small scale farmers, also aimed at improving food security.

Banda said the factory, revived at a cost of $5 million, would provide a ready market for local fresh farm producers and also facilitate broader-based economic growth which was necessary to reduce poverty levels.

“It is encouraging to note that this plant will employ more than 500 people,” Banda said.

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