By Ndafadza Madanha
THE US$400m investment into Cold Storage Company (CSC) by Boustead Beef has raised hopes that communal and small scale farmers who account for 70 percent of the country’s five million cattle will finally be able to unlock value of their assets.
CSC has spent the last decade and a half in the doldrums resulting in loss of its foreign markets partly owing to the frosty political relations between Harare and Brussels following the land reform exercise.
Compounding issues was the incessant outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease after the land reform that derailed access to the EU market.
At its peak CSC had a beef quota to the lucrative European market which generated in excess of US$100m annually.
Domestically the company lost it monopoly following liberalization of the economy to allow for the entry of independent abattoirs.
However, the coming in of the Boustead Beef to partner CSC has raised prospects that communal farmers will be able to commercialize their cattle.
Boustead has anchored the revival of CSC on building strong synergies with communal farmers to build a strong supply chain.
A Zimbabwe Agric Survey report notes that though communal farmers account for the bulk of the national herd commercializing their cattle is the last thing on most farmer’s minds.
Equally, the productivity of smallholder cattle herds remains very low, with average calving rates of about 45 percent against a potential of 60 percent, and off take rates of about 6 percent against a recommended 20 percent.
CSC- Boustead Beef marketing director Isaiah Machingura said since the investment was announced the investors have already started repairs at the various abattoirs owned by the company which are dotted across the country.
Machingura said restocking was underway at CSC ranches while a strategy was afoot to support communal farmers who hold over 70 percent of the country’s herd.
Refurbishment of the CSC main abattoirs in Masvingo, Bulawayo and Chinhoyi is expected to be completed in the second half 2019.
“Our main focus is to bring awareness to the farmers that CSC is now up and running and we are ready to partner them to unlock value of their livestock. The farmers are currently been shortchanged and the new investor does not want see this continuing. We want to see the communal farmers commercializing their cattle and we shall soon unveil a strategy on how the farmers can do this. The investment will come in phases but currently we are working on refurbishing our factories and restocking our ranches. Already machinery has started arriving in the country”.
He said the investor was not deterred by the fact that the market had significantly changed with CSC no longer enjoying a monopoly in the sector as it did in its heydays.
Despite this the Zim Agriculture survey says small scale farmers keep cattle as a store of wealth and as a sign of wealth and hence sees slaughtering as wastage.
With this observation, it therefore means that small scale farmers are not sweating value in their cows something which could happen if they were slaughtering and restocking.
The report notes that there is need to train farmers with a view of building their capacity to run cattle and animal rearing as a serious business and create strong value chains linkages between farmers, the Cold Storage Company, meat processors and abattoirs.
“CSC is not new in the game we understand what needs to be done, those already in the market are not our enemies but we are here to complement each other but we have the added advantage of having access to foreign markets”.