Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE country’s leading blanket manufacturer, National Blankets’ diversification drive is nearing completion with the company expecting to roll out its new canvas products onto the market at the beginning of next year.
National Blanket’s judicial manager Mr Philip Ndlovu, of PNA Chartered Accountants said the company’s partnership with a South African textile manufacturer would see it producing more canvas products compared to blankets due to their high demand on the market.
Its prospects of attaining more business during the winter season over the past few years have also been dampened by the prevailing liquidity challenges in the country as well as low disposal income by earners.
“The material has arrived and samples are being done as I speak. Production is coming back in a big way and its coming with a different product needed by the market. We won’t be producing many blankets for the traditional market but we will be doing selected products for specific customers through producing per order,” said Mr Ndlovu.
The partnership between National Blankets and the South African firm comes in handy in reducing the turnaround time for arrival of raw material from about 90 days to about two weeks. The company used to acquire most of its raw materials from Asian countries.
Mr Ndlovu said the company had already brokered an arrangement to supply its canvas products in bulk to a foreign company, which will later sell both on the local and export market.
“We are looking at the new products being introduced into the market at the beginning of next year after having gone through standard testing and thereafter our biggest consumer will place an order and supply both the local and foreign markets.
“We are also looking at a huge market all hinging on the success of the trial runs. Capacity is going to be bigger in terms of production but not employment but you have to understand that skills will be different but we are not sure of the numbers needed at the moment,” he said.
At its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s the company used to employ about 1 000 people but it now has a workforce of just over 100.
Mr Ndlovu also said the company would seek ways to benefit from the funding to be released by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) for retooling and expanding manufacturing capacity of Zimbabwean companies.
“Since we are working on a fairly different product we are obviously going to take advantage of Comesa’s retooling programme because we need to retool. We need an injection of capital for production to be in full swing for the canvas products and mining industrial products,” said Mr Ndlovu.