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Zimbabwe: Ariston Counts Cost of Incessant Rains

Published on 11 May, 2006, Last updated at 04:53 GMT

11 May, 2006: Harare - ALTHOUGH most companies in the agro-sector greeted the above average rains that pounded the country in the 2005/06 agricultural season with optimism, horticulture powerhouse Ariston Holdings, has been left to count the cost of the incessant rains.

Ariston reported last week that the excessive rains had slowed down production at some of its estates.

The listed agro-exporter said the rains had hindered flower production at its Claremont Estate in Nyanga while shortages of inputs worsened the situation.

Ariston grows breeder protected exotic flowers and lilies at Claremont Estate where it also produces trout and potatoes. With a unique climate for horticulture, Claremont is the country's largest producer of pome and stone fruit.

Although fruit volumes were higher than in 2005, the quality of the fruit was compromised by the excessive rains and hailstorms, the company said in its interim financials made public last week in which it recorded profit after tax of $456 billion. The hail, which hit Claremont Estate, left some unsightly marks on some fruit.

Although Zimbabwe has been experiencing severe droughts over the years, it received good rains in the 2005/06 agricultural farming season which brought relief to most firms in the agro-sector.

Ariston's poultry project at Kent Estate in Norton was hit by stockfeed shortages resulting in fewer broilers being produced.

Zimbabwe, which is in its seventh year of economic recession, has been grappling with acute shortages of grain from which stockfeeds are manufactured.

However, Ariston managing director Kumbirai Katsande told The Financial Gazette that its strategic alliance with Delta Corporation was expected to bring some respite in the supply of grain.

"We are looking forward to some small grains from Delta," said Katsande.

Delta acquired a controlling shareholding in Ariston in 2005 in a deal that investment analysts hailed as profitable to both parties.

Apart from Claremont and Kent Estates, Ariston also owns one of the country's oldest fruit and vegetable companies, Favco, as well as Southdown Estates and Capital Tea. The company is one of the largest tea, cut flowers, and coffee producers and is Zimbabwe's largest exporter of macadamia nuts.


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