Nestle, the Swiss food behemoth, has insisted the "crisis" in Zimbabwe's dairy sector means it will continue to source milk from a farm owned by the wife of President Robert Mugabe "for the forseeable future".

The company today (28 September) revealed that it sources up to 15% of its milk supply in Zimbabwe from Gushungo Dairy Estate, a property said to be owned by Grace Mugabe.

Nestle started receiving milk from the farm at the turn of the year after losing half of its contracted milk suppliers in the impoverished African state.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Nestle's local arm, which is based on the outskirts of Zimbabwean capital Harare, is the farm's largest customer.

Nestle, the world's largest food manufacturer, pertains to follow a strict code of corporate and social responsibility.

On Nestle's corporate website, the company has published a 10-page "code of conduct" in which the group claims it "condemns any form of bribery and corruption".

However, a spokesman told just-food that Nestle would continue to source milk from Gushungo to save "hundreds" of local jobs and in the "interest" of local consumers.

"We will need to rely on existing supplier arrangements for the forseeable future," the spokesman said. "By providing basic food products to Zimbabwean consumers, Nestlé aims to meet the needs of the local population, many of whom are vulnerable and disadvantaged."

Reports in South Africa said pay for workers at the dairy was low. A 25-year-old worker, with a baby to care for, told South African newspaper The Star that she could not afford to buy its milk at $1 a litre.

"Do we ever get enough money? No, I get $40 a month, yet we sell lots and lots of milk," she said. "We do get cabbages returned from the market and 25kg of maize meal twice a month, but there is no electricity in our houses, only for office staff and managers," the worker said. "Mrs Mugabe is here a lot, but doesn't talk to us, just the managers."