Blog: Dean BestNestle's Mugabe link leaves sour taste

Dean Best | 29 September 2009

For all Nestlé's assertions that it is in something of a Catch 22 situation in Zimbabwe, the revelation that it sources milk from a farm owned by the wife of President Robert Mugabe leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The Swiss food giant has admitted that it gets up to 15% of its milk from the impoverished African nation from Mrs Mugabe's Gushungo Dairy Estate.

What's more, Nestlé told us yesterday (28 September) that it will continuing sourcing milk from the farm "for the foreseeable future" - and pointed to the "crisis" in the country's dairy sector.

Nestlé claims it has lost half of its contracted suppliers in the country and turned to a number of non-contracted suppliers - including Mrs Mugabe - to shore up its supplies.

"Should Nestlé decide to close down its operations in Zimbabwe, the company would trigger further food shortages and hundreds of job losses among its employees and milk suppliers in an already very difficult situation," a spokesman said.

The Nestlé spokesman insisted that the world's largest food manufacturer was "in full compliance with our corporate business principles" - despite a 10-page "code of conduct" on the group's website in which it claims to "condemn any form of bribery and corruption".

Remember the criticism - and Western consumer boycotts - Nestlé faced over allegations surrounding its promotion of infant formula in developing countries? It is clear, then, that this is not the first time the company has attracted the wrong kind of headlines over its operations in Africa.

Commenting on the link to Mugabe, one CSR expert told us: "There are PR own goals and there are PR own goals. As this is a 30-yard drive into the top corner."


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