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Small-scale supplier the ultimate winner in partnership with Shoprite Zambia
THE Mweemba family’s fortunes have undergone considerable change since they became the first local supplier of fresh vegetables to Shoprite Zambia, when the retailer entered this market 25 years ago.
The late Ezekiel Collin Mweemba started subsistence farming after he lost his job at the end of 1994 when the national carrier, Zambia Airways, was liquidated. His cousin told him about Freshmark, the fresh produce procurement arm of Shoprite, and so a mutually beneficial business relationship started, which fuelled the growth of his business, ECM Farms, managed these days by his daughter, Mazuba Mweemba Songwe.
ECM Farms provide the retailer with leafy vegetables like rape, spinach, Kalembula, Chibwabwa, Chinese cabbage and Bondwe. “Our growth has been phenomenal. We would never have crossed over to small-scale commercial farming had it not been for the ongoing support from Shoprite Zambia.
“In 1995 my father was the only one farming, but today we have six permanent and four part-time employees. Our business generates a steady annual income from activities on our farm, some 20km from the Shoprite distribution centre outside Lusaka,” says Mazuba.
Almost 90% of the fresh produce available in Shoprite Zambia’s supermarkets is sourced locally. The retailer started with only four suppliers in 1995 and grew that number to the current 127 supplying to its supermarkets today. “We specialise in establishing long-term partnerships with local suppliers, so that their enterprises can grow alongside our business to the benefit of many more Zambians,” explains Charles Bota, General Manager of Shoprite Zambia.
Mazuba believes that the greatest benefit of supplying a world-class retailer is the “large, steady market” it provides for their produce. “Also, a big player like Shoprite has a significant influence on pricing and ensures that we are able to sell our vegetables to others at more competitive prices.”
“Due to the stringent standards required by Freshmark, the quality of our crops keep on improving, which means we are able to provide all our clients with first grade vegetables,” describes Mazuba.
Skills development is yet another positive outcome of this fruitful partnership. Employees of ECM Farms’ skills set now includes food processing and packaging which as it adds value to the produce they sell to Shoprite Zambia.