We brought in barley varieties from Zimbabwe and recruited four pioneering growers to plant around 200 hectares as a trial. Anele describes how the farmers tackled the programme with enthusiasm: “They all said, ‘what we really like about this is the technical challenge of growing malting barley’. These farmers were really interested and got excited about doing something new. There was a learning curve that they were willing to go up quite quickly.”
The results were spectacular, encouraging us to boost the programme over the next two years to 4,500 hectares, achieving 24,000 tonnes of prime quality malting barley.
To have achieved this landmark from a standing start in just three growing seasons is testament to the skills of the farmers and their willingness to take a risk on trying out a new crop. More typically, introducing a crop into a new growing environment takes decades, not years.
With the barley sector established, we have taken the logical next step of investing in a Zambian malting plant. Construction began on 21 October 2014 in Lusaka. Speaking on the day, Anele said: “Today marks yet another key milestone in Zambian Breweries’ growth and development agenda as we unveil plans and break-ground for our latest US$32.6 million dollar investment in a malting plant. The first of its kind in the 50-year history of our young nation, Zambian Breweries’ new malting plant will make Zambia self-reliant in malted barley.”
With an initial production capacity of 18,000 tonnes per annum, the plant will have sufficient capacity to meet local demand with excess exported to regional markets. When complete, the plant will save Zambia approximately US$10 million dollars in import costs a year.
As a natural evolution of the barley farming programme, the malting plant will go a long way in sustaining the circa 12,000 rural jobs that are in part dependent on the barley farming programme. Local sourcing is a core part of our strategy and by adding depth to Zambia’s agricultural sector we continue to play our part in boosting the rural economy and the livelihoods of those who rely on agriculture as their primary source of income.