MASVINGO-The biggest beef processor in Italy, Cremonini Group has indicated a strong desire to invest in Zimbabwe in particular Masvingo Province which boasts the biggest herd of cattle in the country at 1.3million.
Cremonini Group chairman, Luigi Cremonini visited Masvingo Province this Sunday together with Ricardo Zani Cremonini the African Business Unit manager and Paolo Persico who acts as an advisor and interpreter for the fast growing company.
Cremonini which was incorporated in 1963 has footprints in Africa and Europe where it is involved in cattle farming to finished products totalling 500 000 tonnes per year. The company is capitalised at over US$4billion as at December 2018 according to Persico, with 40% of its earnings coming from international operations.
The team landed at Buffalo Range Airport in the morning to meet the Minister for Masvingo Provincial Affairs, Ezra Chadzamira and proceeded to Tongaat feedlots in Triangle where they wanted to assess commercial cattle farming in the area.
“We are quite excited by what we saw at Tongaat and we hope that if we are to establish a similar project it will be viable and with the availability of feed which is in abundance here there is a possibility of us investing in the Province,” said Cremonini.
From Tongaat the team visited Mwenezi and Lake Tugwi Mukosi with Minister Chadzamira to assess how communal farmers breed their cattle.
“Mwenezi has the biggest cattle herd in Masvingo Province owned by communal and commercial farmers. The team was very impressed with what they saw, they intend to boost cattle fattening in the area in order to increase their catchment area if they are going to invest in Masvingo as they indicated.
“They also intend to buy heifers which they will breed for beef for the export market which we believe will boost our forex earnings which also dovetails into the President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for Zimbabwe to be a middle income economy by 20130. They are very serious and they have the money,” said Chadzamira.
They also visited Masvingo Cold Storage Commission (CSC) which they intend to use for processing beef in the event that they decided to invest in the Province.
CSC has been under-performing for more than two decades with machinery lying idle despite investors from South Africa, China and England showing interest of resuscitating it.
In March this the Government entered into a 25 year lease agreement with a British based ‘beef giant’ Boustead Beef owned by Nick Havercroft who promised to pour in US$ 400million over the next five years under Rehabilitate, Operate and Transfer terms.
When asked about the possibility of a legal wrangle emanating from Boustead, Minister Chadzamira said there won’t be any legal wrangle as they failed to live fulfil their promises.
According to Press reports the so called British company has a bank balance of only US$12 000 and when Haverscroft was asked where he would get the money to rehabilitate CSC he was not at liberty to disclose citing client confidentiality.
In September the company started retrenching workers and not renewing contracts for those over 60 years old a sign that it was struggling financially. Boustead’s financial muscle has further been put into doubt as in Masvingo they have started leasing space at the plant with the latest being a fuel service station remitting rentals to CSC something the current management had been doing in order to be able pay its 13 workers from over 600 who used to be employed at the plant.
CSC is saddled with a debt of over US$25million as taxes, wages and rates which the British company had promised to clear.
Since 1980 CSC has been one of the major forex earners for the country processing 150 000 tonnes of beef per annum with 9 100 tonnes being exported to the EU as part of its annual quota.