Olam first established a presence in Zambia in 2007, with the incorporation of our cotton business. A similar business model to the one we set up in Zimbabwe, we soon became the third largest cotton player in the market employing 175 full time staff and more than 2,000 seasonal employees.
We started out operating independently but soon realised this limited our scope for growth, so we consequently entered into a joint venture in 2009 with Continental Ginnery, to extend our capabilities in this market. Currently, we provide about 45,000 hectares of inputs (planting seeds and chemicals) on credit to 30,000 small and marginal cotton farmers, providing them with agronomy support and then buying their crop back from them in cash. We then gin the seed cotton and export the lint.
Zambia is self-sufficient in its grain requirements. Realising its importance in regional grain flows and with regard to the local carry margins available, we started in 2008 local trading in grains – maize, soya and wheat, as well as imports of rice on a small scale.