A partnership between brewery and farmers has helped to develop a thriving malting barley sector in Zambia in record time
For many years our Zambian business, Zambian Breweries plc, sourced supplies of malting barley from neighbouring Zimbabwe. But by 2009, the problems inherent in Zimbabwean farming had seen this vital supply line cut off, forcing our breweries to turn to European barley, which kept the beer flowing but saw raw material costs double.
The warm, dry Zambian winter is ideal for growing grains, and wheat was established two decades ago as an irrigated winter crop. Barley and wheat have similar requirements for successful cultivation; could a solution to our barley sourcing needs be found closer to home? We turned to Zambia’s major commercial wheat growers, many of whom had formerly farmed in Zimbabwe, to see if they were interested in developing a complementary revenue stream that would also help mitigate the risk of wheat price fluctuations.
Anele Malumo, our Managing Director in Zambia, says: “Often, when we think about local sourcing of crops in Africa, we think about small-scale farmers. Other crops that we source in Zambia do come from smallholders, but barley in Zambia is a bit different, because barley and wheat are both winter crops grown under irrigation. This means that they need investment into the irrigation infrastructure, so that’s tough for small-scale farmers to do.”