As the fruit factory is being equipped with modern equipment ahead of its opening for operations anytime soon, Katete District Commissioner Malan Zimba wants people in the district to utilise the business opportunities that the multimillion kwacha investment will present.
The District Commissioner said residents in the area must take advantage of the K120 million Eastern Tropical Fruit Limited by ensuring they supply the plant with fruits throughout the year once it starts production.
Mr Zimba noted that one way of reaping the full benefits from the plant is for the farmers in the district to engage in whole year-round horticultural activities.
“I call upon the royal highnesses, the headmen and indeed the residents of my district that they take advantage of this massive investment that the government has put in our district. Right now I call upon the people in our district to plant more fruits like lemons, early maturing oranges; we need to engage not in seasonal farming, but continuous farming,” he said.
He was speaking when he toured the plant to appreciate the newly installed machinery ahead of the plant being commissioned to start operations.
Mr Zimba is impressed that the plant will create both direct and indirect jobs in the district, thereby increasing income per capita of the district, especially among the youth.
“This will create a lot of employment for our youths in our district, I am sure it will swallow more than half the number of youths in our district, because there will be direct and indirect jobs,” he said.
The K120 million fruit processing plant is expected to benefit about 8000 farmers and 500 shop owners who will be dealing in the products the plant will be producing.
Processing and packaging machinery has been installed and, apart from the packaging just being used for the Eastern Tropical Fruit products, the company will be supplying to other packaging businesses across the province.
Earlier Briefing the District Com on the progress the plant was making, Eastern Tropical Fruits Limited General Manager Gaston Phiri said the company was in the process of employing more staff.
“Right now we have got about 35 general workers and a few other support staff and we are likely to start interviews for 28 positions in February. So the 28 plus the 35 that we have, that is the number we will start with, the target is to reach 60 to 70 staff by December 2023,” he said.
Mr Phiri also indicated that all the necessary equipment needed to process the various products was already set and some test-runs were being done.
“All the material here and the mechanical parts have been fully done and we have done some tests for the equipment, except the only part we are remaining with is to do an end to end test which assists in synchronizing that everything is working harmoniously together,” he said.
The plant is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between government through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Vitaplus Foods Limited a Zambian company. The IDC holds the majority share of 70 percent while VitaPlus has 30 percent stock.