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Covid-19 chokes Ingwebu

by Staff reporter
14 Feb 2021 at 09:42hrs | Views
BULAWAYO Municipal Commercial Undertaking (BMCU)'s beverages manufacturing unit, Ingwebu Breweries has laid off more than 100 workers, citing depressed volumes in product sales.

The prevailing Covid-19 lockdown regulations that barred bottle stores and bars from operating, has rendered a financial difficulty for the company that rakes in most revenue from its alcohol beverages line. Information at hand reveals that Ingwebu Breweries loses close to 800 million litres of beer per month, which has left it operating at 44 percent capacity. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 scourge and subsequent business lockdowns, the company said it operated at 90 percent.

With such record low volumes from its traditional flagship Calabash alcoholic drink, Ingwebu Breweries was in January forced to lay off 102 workers. The alcoholic drink's shelf life is only four days and is ordinarily sold at Bulawayo City Council-owned community beer halls dotted in high density suburbs. As sales of the products went low, Ingwebu Breweries managing director Mr Dumisani Mhlanga said it was a prudent, though painful decision to lay off the workers.

"We are seeing a drop in sales volumes of our products and as such, it becomes unsustainable for business. We had to stop 102 workers from work," said Mr Mhlanga.

Mr Mhlanga said this was however, temporary as the company will reinstate the laid off workers when business resumes to normal.

"They are to be called back to duty if the situation improves. Once the lockdown is loosened, we are hopeful to bounce back."

Workers said while they sit at home, they remain hopeful the company will recall them soon.

"This is one of the most dreadful situations that any worker must not endure. We were told that the company will not afford to pay us well on time and we have to go. We remain with hope that they will call us when all this is over. For now, it is all about finding other means to earn a living," said Mr Norman Ncube, one of the workers.

Before the country went into lockdown last year, Ingwebu Breweries had expressed satisfaction on the performance of its two re-launched non-alcoholic and alcoholic products as it grappled to grab a substantial niche market locally.

The non-alcoholic drink, Royal Mahewu and the 1,5 litre "Baby" Calabash were the company's cash cow then, enjoying favourable support from consumers. The company started producing mahewu in February 2015 after investing more than US$500 000 as a way of raising fresh income after its main source, the sorghum beer, took a battering from competition from other brands.

Operational challenges faced by Ingwebu Breweries have also hit other companies countrywide. According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), industry in general has recorded losses due to the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. CZI did a company survey in May last year with findings indicating a total of 122 firms across the country were downsizing and heavily affected by low capacity utilisation.

Source - sundaynews