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High demand overwhelms Bulawayo tar producing firm

BULAWAYO tar manufacturing company, Asphalt Products (Pvt) Ltd, is overwhelmed by the spike in demand for its products driven by Government’s Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP).

The second phase of ERRP is part of intensified efforts to improve the country’s road network and under the phased road rehabilitation programme, Government pledged $33,6 billion and Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) has since disbursed over $2,3 billion.

Asphalt is the sole producer of tar in the region supplying Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South provinces.

During a tour of the factory by Bulawayo Minister of State Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Judith Moyo, and her delegation on Tuesday, company executives said the business was facing capacity challenges due to limited access to foreign currency.

Managing director, Engineer Francis Mangwendeza, said the minister’s visit was significant in appreciating the challenges they are facing.

“Our equipment is overwhelmed at the moment because of the high demand being created by the ERRP projects.

We have ordered a machine from China and it’s ready for shipping,” he said.

“We hope the Reserve Bank will consider our plea and release money to enable us to import that (machinery) as quickly as possible so that by January we can quadruple the production.”

Eng Mangwendeza said on a single shift, the company was producing an average of 150 tonnes and through double shifts they go to 300 tonnes, but this is still not adequate.

Due to the demand from the ERRP, he said, what they are producing is not enough to meet growing demand.

He said before the launch of the ERRP programme, the demand for their products was very low in terms of road repairs.

Among the top challenges is fuel procurement, which is only available in foreign currency and yet the business struggled to access forex but requires 1 200 of diesel per day.

“We are paid in RTGS or local currency but fuel is being sold in USD,” said Eng Mangwendeza.

Mr Mangwendeza said Zimbabwe was importing Bitumen and other related products, which requires more forex resources but said these were not adequate despite the fact that the company was receiving support from the Apex Bank.

Bitumen is critical in road construction, and is being obtained by fractional distillation of crude petroleum as an end product. Its materials are used for the construction of roads, preserving timber and for waterproofing stone walls, as well as surfacing of road and airport pavements.

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