Domestic pork producer Colcom is gearing itself up for an aggressive assault on the meat market during 2001, responding to the opportunities opened by a likely inflation in the cost of value-added processed products.

Food inflation is expected to reach higher levels this year because of a shortage of maize, and many consumers are expected to respond by switching their purchases to fresh meats.

This is welcome news to Colcom who has been forced to keep a close eye on costs after what it describes as difficult trading in 2000. The company still managed to increase turnover by 42% to US$1.2bn and operating income by around 67% to US$109.4m during the year, however. Similarly, net profit almost doubled US$104.8m and, boosted by net interest, earnings rocketed to US$32.8m, a 150% increase on 1999.

During 2000, exports sales increased by 81% and the company has commented that it will pursue further growth in this area aggressively, taking advantage of the potential for increased volumes despite a softening in regional prices.

The agriculture sector in Zimbabwe is expected to decline by 9% this year, and the farm situation remains precarious in some areas. Ongoing farm invasions are not encouraging investment, which has all but stopped.

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Colcom insisted however that the situation had not yet disrupted pig supply, and spoke of the exceptional results at it Norton Piggery, which it believes will be a catalyst for further similar units.