Wilson Dakwa, Business Reporter
SOUTH AFRICA-BASED cigarettes manufacturer, Gold Leaf Tobacco (GLT) has started preparations for the setting up of its state-of-the-art $1,5 million cigarettes manufacturing plant in Harare.
GLT Zimbabwe country manager Mr Tanaka Matimbe said the company was in the process of procuring machinery.
“We are still sourcing machinery and equipment. The machinery and equipment is specialised and we have to source for these from abroad. The waiting period on delivery could take anything from 12 to 18 months. But suffice to say the process has started for the procurement of the machinery,” said Mr Mutimbe.
He said the equipment was highly automated and requires minimal labour.
“Our estimated direct employment has been set at plus or minus 50 and these will include the factory workers, logistics and distribution and the current staff. As you may be aware these days most machines come automated.
“The plant in South Africa is well established and capable of supplying the Zimbabwe market until our plant is set up and fully operational. We are therefore importing our cigarettes from South Africa,” he said.
The company started marketing its three brands under the Ruddland and George brand in Zimbabwe last year. It has set a target to grab 20 percent of the local market in the next 12 to 18 months and has started expanding its distribution network through recruiting agents and distributors countrywide.
“Our greatest challenge has been product imitations that have sprouted in the market, we are Ruddland and George and we are here to stay,” Mr Mutimbe said.
Last year the company was embroiled in a legal battle with a local company, Savanna Tobacco over the marketing of cigarettes bearing the brand name “RG”. Savanna Tobacco is the licensed manufacturer of Remington Gold cigarettes in Zimbabwe that is also shortened as “RG” on the tobacco market.
GLT Zimbabwe recently reduced the price of its products in a move meant to cushion the pockets of its consumers. Mr Mutimbe said the company was sourcing more than 90 percent of its tobacco requirements locally.
“We are already buying plus 90 percent of our tobacco requirements from the local tobacco market and setting up the Harare plant will definitely increase the quantities. We are committed to also contribute immensely to the economy through creation of employment across the production line, from farmers to retailers and we have to put the investment into the company and through the various tax heads,” said Mr Mutimbe.