Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE UK is craving for Zimbabwean beef products and has engaged the Cold Storage Company (CSC) to resume exports to the lucrative market, an official has said.
The country’s largest beef processor and marketer, CSC, used to have an annual quota of beef exports to the European Union of 9 100 tonnes and it last exported beef in 2007. The parastatal fell on hard times from 2000 owing to a myriad of challenges, among them, inadequate working capital, cattle diseases, decline in the commercial herd, huge foreign debt, high staff turnover and an old transport fleet.
Its problems worsened at the height of sanctions that were imposed on the country by the EU.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting on special economic zones in Bulawayo on Wednesday, CSC marketing director Mr Isaiah Machingura said the UK has opened up big markets for beef products and that the European market was craving for beef from the country because of its high quality.
“The UK has opened up big markets, right now we (CSC) talk to them almost every week and they are saying Bulawayo, CSC, Zimbabwe where are you and this is because our canned product is also one of the best and they are actually eager to import our canned product,” said Mr Machingura.
“Beef in Zimbabwe is one of the best in the world. The only beef, which we can fall second to is the Scotch beef coming from Aberdeen Angus in Scotland. So just imagine Zimbabwe the second and that Scotland only produces just a handful, there is nothing much there. So, they are crying for Zimbabwe beef.”
When operating at full throttle, Mr Machingura said CSC Bulawayo has the capacity to slaughter more than 700 animals a day and do the deboning and packaging before exporting. Government has announced that it was scouting for fresh investors to revive operations at CSC. The ailing parastatal was among the 12 State enterprises that the Government has announced their reform initiative were at various stages of implementation.
Swiss and British investors have shown keen interest for joint venture partnerships with CSC. Last year, the State-run pension fund, the National Social Security Authority announced its intent to invest $18 million into the ailing CSC. The deal appears to have fallen by the wayside. The transaction was expected to see the authority acquiring 80 percent stake in the parastatal, Government retaining 20 percent.
But Lands, Agriculture and Irrigation Development Minister Perrance Shiri is on record saying acquiring foreign investors would allow CSC to invest in other areas and grow Zimbabwe’s economy at large.
Mr Machingura said his organisation was a strategic entity through which all players across the agro-industry value chain in Zimbabwe can also benefit from the company’s operations.
“Through CSC operations we also have space for the farmers around which they benefit as we support them and make sure we create wealth and generate fresh money into the economy.
“That fresh money comes like the old days when we used to export we used to generate a minimum of 50 million British pounds a year that is on beef excluding by-products, canning and wet-blue tannery,” he said.
Mr Machingura said CSC was also looking for a strategic partnership to resuscitate its tannery.
“When it comes to the tannery, as CSC we are specialised up to wet blue stage. And we are saying the space is there, those who are actually specialising in finishing, come let’s do business together. We just need investors to turn on the key and then we run,” he said.
At its climax, CSC used to handle up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually and exported to the EU. The entity had for the past 10 years been making $6 million loss annually. Presently, CSC is hamstrung by a debt overhang of more than $25 million mainly as a result of fixed costs such as wages, rates and taxes on land and it is in dispute with its creditors, including 413 former workers, who are owed about $4 million in salary arrears. — @okazunga