STRUGGLING meat processor, the Cold Storage Company (CSC), needs at least three years to boost its dwindling national herd presently estimated at slightly above 600 cattle at nine farms countrywide, a government minister has said.
Paddington Zhanda, the Agriculture deputy minister responsible for livestock, told Southern Eye Business that discussions on reviving the once thriving parastatal are ongoing, particularly the urgent need to grow CSC’s herd which at its peak reached several thousands.
CSC fortunes have been nose-diving in recent years owing to a myriad of operation challenges.
“Reviving CSC is a process and meetings focusing on raising finance and changing operations are ongoing. However, it should be understood that boosting the herd from current 600 plus takes time. We need about three years to get meaningful numbers,” said Zhanda.
Eddie Cross, a former general manager at CSC and MP for Bulawayo South said although cattle breeding was on the decline in the country, CSC was finding it tough to cope with competition.
“There is a general agreement that cattle breading is on the decline from both commercial and communal farmers. However, CSC needs to change its operations if it wants to remain relevant. Currently, there are several private abattoirs which are dotted countrywide and that’s competition which CSC has to face,” said Cross.
He said last week the Agriculture ministry officials had meetings with private abattoirs as part of government efforts to revive the sector.
The viability of CSC suffered a major setback when the European Union (EU) suspended beef imports from the country in 2001 following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
CSC had an annual quota to the EU of 9 100 tonnes of beef. It also had a $15 million revolving payment facility with the 27-member bloc under which it was paid in advance. The company used to earn the country at least $45 million annually.
Capacity utilisation has plunged to 7% with the workforce dropping to 500 workers compared to 1 500 in 1999 as the parastatal continues to battle to attract funding due to a weak balance sheet.
In July 2011, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana allowing for the importation of cattle for slaughter by CSC.