Can Manufacturers Botswana (Pty) Ltd, the first food can manufacturing company in Botswana, which is a subsidiary of the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) Limited, was this week officially opened in Lobatse.
Speaking at the launch of this company, BDC Managing Director, Kenneth Matambo, explained that the establishment of Can Manufacturers emanated from the need for manufacturing and provision of food cans to service the meat, fruits, vegetables and fish markets locally and regionally. He said the project is in line with BDC’s mandate of promoting and financing commercially viable businesses that contribute to the economic development and diversification of Botswana.
Matambo said the establishment of this company was informed by a feasibility study which BDC undertook in 2002, which concluded that there are unmet demands for food cans in the SADC region and justified the entry of additional players in the industry. “BDC has so far invested P126 million in this project. Further developments continue to be implemented by way of introducing a second line and an ‘end-making’ line which is expected to cost P77 million,” he stated.
In the light of the strong force reshaping the global and regional economics, Matambo highlighted that new challenges continue to emerge which require continual repositioning and investment in green fields or new areas.
He said at BDC, they believe that they should constantly be on the lookout to capture new opportunities. They believe that all their undertakings should transfer knowledge, skills, information and technology to promote productive and sustainable employment. “Hence this will contribute to the development of a competitive economy and a sound environment and further advance industrial development in the country,” he stated.
Matambo stated that the Corporation sees this project as a means to contribute to the development of down-stream activities such as vegetable and fruit canning companies which will provide a market for local horticultural farmers.
Like any other business, Booker Bannister, the General Manager for Can Manufacturers, said they are affected by certain conditions and challenges that at times pose threats to their day to day operations and have a negative impact on the control of their production costs in effect reducing their competitiveness in terms of selling price. Some of these, he said, included, the high cost of transport and insurance for shipping of raw materials, the continuing escalation of steel prices worldwide, as well as lack of alternative price competitive quality steel supplier in the region and, at times, the geographic location.
“We continue to seek alternative means to overcome some of these barriers and we believe with the assistance of all stakeholders in this national interest project we shall prevail,” he said.
The production of food cans, according to Bannister, is one of the more complicated forms of food packing as it demands best quality and dictates stringent food safety standards. He said metal cans should be manufactured to be able to withstand minimum shelf life requirements and be capable in certain instances of preserving food for up to 5 years.
“The industry boasts leading research centers and continues to bring new and innovative developments against a back drop of ever increasing economic and environmental demands,” he said.
Currently, he said, they are witnessing the high cost of producing raw materials world wide, adding that emerging markets, such as China, grab all available steel and basically setting the tone of market prices, with most of the production of world steel being in the hands of two major producers, Mittal Steel and Tata.
In his remarks, the Vice President, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe, emphasized that this project is a welcome addition to ongoing endeavors to expand the manufacturing sector and improve the country’s competitiveness, both regionally and globally. “This facility will no doubt enhance the performance of our manufacturing sector and give an early boost to Government’s import substitution drive.
In conclusion, he said this facility, which has created employment for 30 people, will indeed add on to the much needed diversification of the economy of the town which is heavily reliant on the beef industry.