ARISTON Holdings says it will focus on further automation of its processes to promote production efficiencies as it moves to improve the quality and volume of its output.

This follows the firm’s 2022 financial year that was characterised by intensive investment in many areas of production.

The year saw the agriculture focused concern invest in a new fleet of tractors and rehabilitation of irrigation systems at its estate including setting up additional centre pivots at the Kent Estate.

To optimise macadamia production, the group invested towards the establishment of new macadamia plantations while another chunk of investment was put on macadamia drying facilities as the group continues to pin hopes on the improved market getting into 2024.

Given the persistent labour challenges in the tea segment, the group indicated that it will be significantly investing in the automation of processes.

According to Ariston, the aforementioned initiatives are meant to scale up the group’s production performance as the world begins to open up from the traps of the Covid-19 pandemic, which diminished volumes uptake from the traditional markets around the world.

In that regard, Ariston did not declare dividends for the year as the group saw the need to preserve cash resources given the need to enhance assets.

Ariston Holdings chairman, Alexander Jongwe, in the statement of the financials to September, indicated that the group was focusing on the growth of operations hence the need to mechanise operations.

“The Group will continue focusing on quality and volume improvements, further automation of activities, and improved production efficiencies. This will assist in underpinning the Group’s production performance,” said Mr Jongwe.

He also outlined how the group is optimistic about a positive 2022/23 agricultural season given the La Nina phenomenon that is expected to bring normal to above normal rainfall.

In terms of performance, Ariston’s tea production volume in the year went on a 15 percent growth to 3,158 tonnes from 2,748 tonnes in the prior year while exports sales volumes improved by 10 percent, a slight recovery from the dip during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tea prices on the international market, however, weakened by one percentage point.

On the contrary, macadamia production volumes waned by 14 percent to 1,106 tonnes compared to the prior year where it recorded 1,292 tonnes albeit a good quality.

In the period under review, the Chinese market remained closed resulting in a 21 percent dip in average selling prices compared to the prior comparative average price.

The other segment of products comprising potatoes, commercial maize, soya beans, seed maize, and bananas contribution to turnover declined by 11 percent compared to the previous year.

Resultantly, revenue for the year to September 2022 declined by 12 percent to $4,1 billion credited mainly to the decline of macadamia selling price and finance costs which increased by 43 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.

Consequently, the group posted a loss before interest and tax of $999 million compared to a loss of $927 million in the prior comparative period. 

state media