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.

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.