The global food brand has come in for stiff criticism this week after it was revealed that it has been buying between 10 and 15 per cent of the milk processed at its Harare plant from the Gushungo Dairy Estate, which is now managed by the wife of dictator Robert Mugabe.
The milk was used mainly in products for the local Zimbabwean market, but consumers around the world pledged to stop buying Nestle branded products.
A spokesperson for Nestle explained to FoodNavigator.com that Nestle started buying milk on the open market in February as the country’s food and economic crisis caused the dairy sector to collapse and eight of its 16 regular suppliers went out of business.
At the same time, the Zimbabwe Dairy Board was no longer in a position to buy milk from Gushungo Dairy Estate and seven other farms. Nestle says it therefore stepped in to buy it on a temporary basis.
“This helped prevent a further deterioration in food supplies in Zimbabwe at that time,” said the company in a statement.
Nestle did not cite consumer response to publicity on the matter in its statement on the reasons for the change in sourcing strategy, which will come into effect on 4th October.
The spokesperson said it is because that the dairy situation in Zimbabwe has normalised to a degree and the dairy board could now start buying from its former suppliers again.
He pointed out, however, that civil rights group AfriForum has now called off its plan to organise a boycott of Nestle products if the company did not stop sourcing from the Mugabe farm by October 7th.
Nestle is now facing a sourcing problem – only half of its original 16 suppliers are still in business – but it is currently “in discussions with individual farms”.
AfriForum launched its international campaign against Nestle’s sourcing strategy at www.nestlebloodmilk.com.
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, welcomed Nestle’s decision and described it as “a victory for justice”.
Kriel attributed the move to the fact that “thousands of people from all over the world have been prepared to send letters to Nestlé via the website… to express their dismay at Nestle‘s decision to buy milk from Mugabe”.
“This event proves that ordinary people can use their power as consumers to ensure that justice will prevail,” Kriel added.