The demand for organic food inspires the company Byo

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The chronicle

Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Economic Reporter
A company run by BULAWYO women has seized the opportunity presented by the growing global demand for organic food to expand its market presence domestically and internationally while empowering small farmers.
The Foods Enterprise, a subsidiary of Multibrand, is an all-female business outfit founded in 2013 specializing in organic products.

Demand for organic foods is growing among consumers as more and more people become health conscious and look for nutritious and low-calorie products.

Consumers’ awareness of foods containing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is increasing and they are switching to organic foods, which is driving chemical-free organic farming market growth. This has led to organic fruit and vegetable growers gaining a foothold in the global supply chain.

Ms. Busi Chitewe, production manager of Das Foods Enterprise, said the increasing demand for organic food has boosted their business and helped them increase employment numbers, especially for women.

“This is a conscious move to empower the girl. We have farmers who grow crops for us. We pride ourselves on the high quality raw production of the ingredients we use from our smallholder women, who we have trained in good and environmentally friendly farming practices,” she said.

“So when we talk about organic products, we’re not referring to the end product, it starts with the ingredients.”
The contracted smallholders come from Bulawayo and the surrounding area.

“We’ve created jobs as a result, and our focus when employing Das Foods is to empower other women,” Ms. Chitewe said.

“We empower the girl in terms of merchandising and marketing. We are an all-female team.”
Although established in 2013, Ms. Chitewe said they started full-time operations in 2018 and now the company supplies retail stores, lodges and some hotels.

“There is a big shift towards organic products locally and internationally. The local market is doing well and growing. We started supplying one store, but now we are in six stores in Bulawayo,” she said.

“We have noticed that more people are now interested in healthy eating and this has increased demand for our products. We have the capacity to produce 500 units of a product line per day.

“While we still face a number of challenges, including access to working capital, we also need additional machinery. With additional machines we can increase our production capacity.”

Noting that access to capital and workspace is also a constraint for small and medium-sized enterprises, Ms Chitewe said they look forward to a large facility.

“The main problem for SMEs is collateral, and women-led companies struggle to access capital,” she said.
“Not all women have real estate to offer as collateral and we have always thought about why we are not considered in terms of the profitability of the business. The project alone can be a security.”

In order for any company to keep up with the changing business landscape, training is vital and Das Foods uses the expertise of ZimTrade, the country’s export promotion organization, which has provided much support in this regard.

“ZimTrade provides us with the technical capacities for the export side. We had the opportunity to attend the SMEs International Expo, held annually at the Harare International Conference Center (HICC),” she said.

“At the fair we met with a representative of the Zimbabwe Italy Friendship Association (Zimita), which led to us attending a fair in Italy in May this year.

“Under ZimTrade, we also participated in the Zambia Agricultural Show and managed to attract business opportunities, especially dealers. We are now working on meeting the requirements for export.”

Another major benefit of being under the ZimTrade banner, which has a mandate to drive exports for the country, is that they research export markets for us, Ms Chitewe said.

“Research for the export market is an expensive undertaking and as an SME we cannot afford it, but working with ZimTrade gives us the opportunity to know exactly where our products are needed.

“That’s why we really appreciate the cooperation with ZimTrade. We have also been trained in marketing and branding for international export. We recognize that by working with us we have gained valuable experience in scaling our business and that we are uplifted.”

Ms Chitewe said with access to finance, machinery and jobs, there is plenty of room for young companies to expand production and benefit more from exports.

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