HARARE, ZIMBABWE — National Foods Holdings Ltd., a manufacturer of branded food and feed, is on track to start operations at a new mill in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in early 2023, said Todd Moyo, chairman of the company.

“The installation of the new mill at our Bulawayo site has commenced and the mill remains on track for commissioning in early 2023,” Moyo noted in the company’s 2022 annual report. “The new mill will increase wheat milling capacity by around 2,000 tonnes per month.

“The prospects for the current winter wheat crop look encouraging, which is a most welcome development as it will reduce import dependency. National Foods continues to play a major role in supporting the local contracted wheat crop.”

Moyo said volumes in the company’s flour unit fell 1.9% in 2022 compared with the previous year, primarily reflecting a slowdown in the most recent quarter as “price increases driven by higher international wheat prices and the reduced availability of local wheat dampened demand.”

Meanwhile, volume momentum in the maize unit picked up in the second half of the year but still wasn’t enough to prevent a 2.3% year-over-year decline. Moyo said the comparison was affected in part by an excellent harvest in 2021 as well as erratic rainfall and unseasonal winter rains in 2022.

“It is anticipated that imports will be needed to fill the gap before the 2022-2023 harvest and the Group has already started on a maize importation program,” he said. “Ordinarily, our expectation would have been for improved volumes in the year ahead following the lower harvest but the opening of the borders to imports of finished product will likely see volumes remaining flat in the year ahead.”

Overall, operating profit in 2022 surged 301% to 14.74 billion ZWL ($40.7 million) while revenue increased 33% to 128.4 billion ZWL ($354.8 million).