THE government-owned Cold Storage Company is reportedly battling to recover over 3 000 cattle that it loaned out to farmers under the livestock supply scheme between 2006 -7, Southern Eye has learnt.
BY SILAS NKALA
Under the scheme, farmers who received cattle from the parastatal were supposed to fatten and resell them to CSC for slaughter. The development has reportedly caused the parastatal to experience serious cashflow problems, resulting in workers going unpaid since 2009.
The parastatal has an outstanding salary bill of $750 000.
Disgruntled workers have now petitioned Agriculture minister Joseph Made to intervene. They accused their management and board members of sleeping on duty and failing to follow up on the missing cattle.
Part of the letter addressed to Made read: “The whole idea was to help increase the country’s cattle that had been killed by droughts. Cattle that were being fed would be sent back to CSC after 30, 60 or 90 days for slaughter, while those for breeding, the majority which were bullying heifers would be taken back to CSC between three and five years. These cattle would remain belonging to CSC until fully paid.
“So in year 2008 and 2009, we hear that inflation had eaten all the debts on the farmers’ balances, but what we know is that farmers still had the cattle on their farms and these cattle had calved, some of them are still having calves up to date.
The parties had signed an agreement which obliged the farmers to sell their livestock to CSC only.
“About 3 000 head of bullying heifers were given to farmers in the years 2006 and 2007 at a calving rate of about 70% per annum, this is what we think happened.”
The workers claimed the cattle head could have multiplied to 63 000.
“There were also about 150 bulls that went with the female cattle because the company was giving one bull for every 20 heifers. Were they also eaten by inflation? It must have very strong teeth,” the workers said in their letter.
“Now this figure is twice what the CSC got from Botswana, so the company could have easily paid off the account, with directors also paying off their cars from the sales of these cattle.”
Workers said selling about 50% of the 61 000 cattle at an average price of $500 per head would have generated over $31 million.
“We think it would be good for CSC to follow on its cattle that were given out to farmers who should also be forced to pay back,” the workers said.
“We therefore as workers call upon the board to call for investigations of grazier account and enforce the contract to recover more than 60 000 head of cattle that are still out there.”
CSC finance director Pascal Marufu declined to comment after questions were emailed to him.
“I have forwarded your inquiry to the CEO as I do not have the authority to speak to the media on behalf of the CSC,” he said.
By the time of going to print CEO Ngoni Chinogaramombe had not responded to the questions sent to him, while his mobile phone went unanswered.