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Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

There are two major sides to the ‘biscuit’ story in Zambia, one that relates to the frightening levels of child stunting and malnutrition and the other that is about sharp business acumen and an eye for opportunity.


Shortly after independence our school children received milk in a school feeding programme. Linked to this was an initiative where tons of Australian milk biscuits were donated for distribution inZambia. A 1969 document reads “The biscuit contains no reducing sugars and can therefore be made using conventional biscuit-making equipment and baked in a conventional oven. The composition of currently produced biscuits is as follows: protein, 20%; fat, 20%; carbohydrates, 50%, plus Ca, Fe, I, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid; the caloric value is 50 kcal/10-g biscuit. The major ingredients are butter oil, co-precipitate, castor sugar, wheat flour and full-fat soya flour. The biscuit is dough-nut shaped; packed in a moisture-proof package it has a very good shelf-life under tropical conditions.”


Similar biscuits were eventually prepared and sold by the old parastatal-run Dairy Produce Board in the seventies and were really quite tasty. Since that time it has been left to the private sector to put a decent tea biscuit in every child’s school lunch box.


Even though our thriving sugar industry and wheat production levels does make the production of biscuits good sense for local manufacturers  it is quite a challenge to BUY ZAMBIAN on the shelf alongside the competitors from Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. But they are there, usually in brightly labeled packaging with catchy names. Anybody who listens to the radio can’t have missed the advertising for ‘Chicco’ and ‘Musa’ biscuits and now the ubiquitous Trade Kings is distributing an ‘Amazon’ product called ‘Spinners’.


Manufacturers’ details, available on the internet when you google Zambia Association of Manufacturers, will yield names such as ‘Batul’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Sunrise’ Biscuits. But not everything is sweet in the industry. Cases of quarrels over brand names have already hit our local court system as we share the market with our neighbours in COMESA and rivaling competition from SADC.  Stories of bitter rivalry between regional manufacturers abound.


Going back to the issue of micronutrient malnutrition it is a fact that your ordinary tea biscuit is relatively cheap, light and palatable to most children, so we hope that this is an avenue that will engage the Zambian corporate more towards balancing the profit motive with social responsibility. As far as we know the fortification of sugar with Vitamin A is still an obligatory component of production and many of the local biscuits have a soya component, so your little one should be getting more than just a sweet treat!


Any reactions from our readers that will help us suggest the best food-value Lowdown ’Christmas Hamper’ for the more needy, including orphaned and vulnerable children’s shelters that have sprung up over the past years are very welcome. The right time of the year to be more discerning about the ordinary packet of locally produced biscuits beyond checking the ‘sell-by’ date!

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