Despite enjoying a huge export market share for its products, Vizara Rubber Plantation plans to ramp up production to effectively compete on the global market.
Currently, the firm, which is the only natural rubber manufacturer in Southern Africa, produces about 2.8 million kilogrammes (kg) of raw rubber per year, with 85 percent exported to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia.
Vizara Rubber Plantation general manager Yash Pratap Singh said during a visit by Minister of Labour Ken Kandodo to the plantation that the remaining 15 percent is sold to local firms.
He said: “The rubber as a raw material is consumed by few industries locally. The plan is to first recognise that on the plantation you need volumes.
“We will expand the area which will reduce the cost of production because once volumes go up, the cost of production goes down.”
Singh said market research shows that there is still huge demand for rubber in South Africa; hence, they will boost volumes to ably compete with rival Malaysian firms.
He said: “In future, we also want to do more value addition on our rubber and also make some rubber products.
“If you transport rubber by ship from Malaysia to South Africa, it is much cheaper than transporting the same from Malawi to South Africa by road. So, the only way you can counter this is by exporting huge volumes.”
Singh said production costs in the plantation are fixed, which means that whether the hectare grows or is reduced, such fixed costs remain; hence, the need to have more volumes of up to 3.5 million kg in the near future.
After the visit, Kandodo expressed satisfaction with the company and encouraged it to boost production and create more jobs.
He said: “The company is employing over 2 000 people, which is good, but also are generating foreign exchange because most of their products are exported. The economy needs revenue and foreign exchange.
“We want them to expand operations and create more jobs for our people. I have been assured that they will continue making more investments.”
Recently, the firm came under fire for retrenching employees, but also paying them low wages.
But Singh said they will employ more people and pay them well.
Vizara Rubber Plantation, located in Nkhata Bay along the M5 Road, covers 3 700 hectares (ha), out of which 2 600 ha is covered by rubber and the rest by natural forest and other trees.