United Refineries Botswana (URB), a citizen owned company will in the near future open its food processing plant in Francistown. During a media tour of the plant last week the Managing Director of the company Mmoloki Tibe said the company seeks to provide, among others quality edible oil through the integrated use of the latest oil technology and information systems. The first phase of the project will be commissioned in April 2015.
“Botswana cooking oil market is 1 million litres and this oil is all imported from South Africa per month. There is a readily available market in countries north of Botswana such as Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo including Zimbabwe which are in demand of this product,” said Tibe.
He said their business stream is in two stages, namely the Edible Oil Refinery and the Oil Seeds Crushing Plant. For the first stage, the raw sunflower oil will be imported from South Africa and refined at their plant in Francistown. The plant will produce 70 tons per day with a total of 2 500 to 3 000 tons per month. He further said the oil will be sold in Botswana and the export balance will be exported to countries north of Botswana where a ready export market exists.
“The second stage involves the Edible Oil Crushing plant. The plant will crush a total of 300 tons of sunflower per day, sourced from farmers in Botswana. The plant construction will commence in August 2015 and commissioned in December 2015. The plant requires 108 000 tons of seeds per annum. We are in the process of organizing a national campaign to encourage all Batswana to plant sunflower to feed the plant and in the process we hope to achieve self sufficiency in edible oils, provide the necessary citizen economic empowerment,” he said.
“Zimbabwe for an example used to be a bread basket of Africa therefore they used to produce sunflower cooking oil. Due to liquidity they are failing to meet the demands of their market. We are planning to take advantage of their market and produce this oil for their companies and further supplement their market as they already have a well established market. Our talks with them are progressing very well,” he added.
Tibe also said that the whole project once complete will be worth close to P80 million. He further said that the business stream will also create direct employment of 500 staff, create indirect employment through labourers employed in the fields to assist with the cropping of sunflower seeds. He said that they want to ensure citizen economic empowerment in that every Motswana with a piece of land can grow sunflower and be paid adequately.
Tibe said they will also produce other products such as margarine, soap and mayonnaise in the process. He said in terms of raw materials especially the sunflower seeds, they are planning to import some of them from the neighboring South Africa.
“In the meantime we are planning to import raw seeds from South Africa and we will also be partnering with the Botswana Farmers Association to encourage farmers to plough sunflower so that they can adequately meet our demand. There will also be quality control measure in place for our products,” he said.
He also revealed that they are currently planning to establish a sugar processing refinery plant in Francistown. He said they have been given 8 000 hectares of land in Pandamatenga where they will plough sugar cane to feed their plant. Tibe said a feasibility study has already been undertaken.
“This project will be able to employ three people per hectare, resulting in a total employment of 24 000 employees. We plan to produce our own sugarcane in four years time and in the meantime we are currently negotiating with countries such as Brazil and India to provide us with the sugar cane for the processing of sugar as we wait for the project to take off. We are also benchmarking from countries such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland on the production of sugar cane,” he said.
Touching on some of their business interests, Tibe said they have enough land in Francistown amounting to 165 hectares covering all these projects. He also revealed that their last project will entail building of a golf estate, selling of residential plots, partnering with investors to build light industries and hotels.
“We will also partner with interested Batswana so that they can establish industries as a way of beneficiation from these projects,” he said.
For his part, the Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Saadique Kebonang commended URB’s efforts to try and diversify the economy. He said such projects will help in creating employment for citizens and improve their livelihoods.
“It is pleasing to note that Batswana citizens are coming up with such good projects as they will contribute positively towards growing our economy. This is indeed commendable,” concluded the assistant minister.