Nestlé resumes dairy operations in Zimbabwe

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 5th January 2010

Nestlé has resumed its operations in Zimbabwe following the suspension of its activities last month over a dispute on buying milk from suppliers linked to the wife of President Robert Mugabe.

The Swiss food giant said the Zimbabwe plant had received a visit from government officials on 19 December who forced staff to take delivery of a tanker of milk from non-contracted suppliers.

Two of its managers were questioned by police and released without charge the same day.

As a result, Nestlé said it suspended the activities at its Harare factory as “normal business was no longer possible” and the safety of its employees “could not be guaranteed”.

However, a spokesperson for Nestlé told just-food today (4 January) that since then, the local Nestlé management has been in regular contact with the Zimbabwean authorities to find a solution.

On the basis of written assurances given by the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe to guarantee the security of Nestlé management and staff and to not interfere in the company’s operating processes, the food giant said it decided to restart the activities at its Harare factory on New Year’s Eve.

“The company reiterates its commitment to source milk exclusively from its contracted farmers,” the spokesperson said.

Nestlé stopped receiving milk from a farm owned by the wife of President Robert Mugabe in October.

The Gushongo farm, which is said to form part of Mrs Mugabe’s 12,000-acre estate, was bought from its previous white owner for a knock-down price and is now owned by the president’s wife and managed by her son.

The company said that the “collapse” of Zimbabwe’s dairy industry amid the political upheaval in the country meant the group lost half its contracted suppliers and as a result, it was “forced” to source milk from a “wide variety” of non-contracted suppliers.

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