LEADING beverages producer, Schweppes Zimbabwe has indefinitely stopped producing its flagship drink, Mazoe Orange Crush, as the company lacks foreign currency to pay a debt to its supplier of vital ingredients.
Schweppes Zimbabwe, according to some media reports, allegedly owes the Coca Cola Company in excess of US $10 million which has not been paid due to forex shortages prevailing in the country.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Schweppes commercial and public affairs director, Mrs Unaiswi Nyikadzino said the company was facing acute forex shortages and had not produced the drink for a while as they were unable to procure raw materials.
"We are not doing away with the product. We have no raw materials at the moment to produce the beverage owing to challenges in accessing foreign currency. We hope to address the issue soon," she said.
Mazoe Orange Crush, the flag-ship of the company's beverages, has been a mainstay of happy occasions in most households in the country and in the region for decades.
The beverage is already in short supply in the city with some shops that had it limiting quantities that customers could buy. Others such as Oceans Supermarket in Bulawayo were charging as much as $60 for a two-litre bottle while the usual price across many shops has been $42.
Schweppes Zimbabwe Managing Director, Mr Charles Msipa told Chronicle yesterday that the company had failed to service a debt owed to Coca Cola Company, and last produced the beverage over two weeks ago.
He said a Mazoe-less festive season could not be ruled out as he was not certain when the company would be able to source forex.
"We have not been producing Mazoe Orange Crush for the past two weeks. It is true that we have a debt we owe to Coca Cola. We have not been able to pay as a result of the prevailing foreign currency shortages. We do source some money from the interbank but it often takes time and there is competition as there are many companies that would need the same service. So, accessing forex is just based on availability. While we do earn some forex from our exports, it is not enough to over our foreign currency requirement as we need to import about 50 percent of our raw materials including concentrates, packaging and other things," said Mr Msipa.
He said Schweppes was in talks with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and local banks to address the issue in the shortest possible time.
"The amount is not US $10 million but right now I am unable to disclose the exact figure that we owe. However, we do owe this money and it must be paid. I am not sure of when our customers can expect to get the beverage on the shelves, it will only be subject to viability of forex. However, a Mazoe-less festive season cannot be ruled out," he said.