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Small bakeries urged to modernise to compete with industry giants

Story by Kenias Chivuzhe

Bakeries under the SMEs sector category have been challenged to re-tool in order to increase market share in the face of huge investments by plant bakeries.

Massive investments by plant companies has seen large bakeries account for a whopping 85% of the market, with in-store bakeries claiming 12% and SMEs trailing behind at just 3%.

The imbalance was highlighted by Mr. Dennis Wallah, past-president of the Bakers Association of Zimbabwe, during a recent bakers night function in Mutare.

“If you look at the structure, the way it is composed, 85% of the bread is produced by plant bakeries comprised of mainly three companies that are Bakers Inn, Lobels and Proton. About 12% are in-stores and three percent are SMEs. From an installed capacity of about 2 million loaves per day, SMEs are contributing about three percent.

“The SMEs are using mainly antiquated equipment, hence there is a need for re-tooling for them to be competitive. Three percent of the 1.5 million loaves is about 45 000 loaves equivalent to 450 loaves per each bakery, which is not good enough. Retooling and product diversification is critical in growing the SMEs bakery sector. SMEs need loans to buy equipment,” he said.

Industry players acknowledge the need to cater to evolving consumer demands.

“We have a school bakery we are running for our students but we are looking forward to supplying the communities surrounding us. Every culture has its unique way of life and food. We use wheat for bread but there is a need to explore other flours using local resources. We also have apostolic sects that do not eat bread with yeast and there is a need to accommodate such people,” said School Bakery’s manager, Reverend Jeffrey Nemakanga.

Munandy Bakery manager Kestina Mushonga said, “We need millers to supply correct flours. We don’t have premix from suppliers for alternative flour without yeast to do traditional bread without yeast.”

Government officials recognise the potential of a thriving SME bakery sector.

“As a province, we need to invest in small bakeries so that we can bring in competition as they are supplying only three percent of the market. Most of the bread in the province is being imported from outside the province, especially from Harare and Bulawayo. There is need to capacitate our small bakeries so that they can compete with big bakeries. We can also innovate by utilising traditional products to produce flour,” said the director in the Office of Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Munyaradzi Rubaya.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent commissioning of a state-of-the-art US$30 million Baker’s Inn plant in Bulawayo demonstrates the government’s commitment to the re-industrialisation drive within the baking sector.

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