Nqobile Bhebhe-Bulawayo Bureau
THE revamped Cold Storage Company(CSC)-Boustead Beef factory, which resumed operations yesterday after 22 years of closure, will never be allowed to collapse again as its re-opening is anchored on renewed business modelling that connects more livestock farmers and downstream industries with prospects for higher job opportunities.
Vice President, Dr Constantino Chiwenga, said this while officially re-opening the giant beef processing factory in Bulawayo, where he stressed the Second Republic’s increased focus on resuscitating agro-processing industries in line with the broader growth trajectory under the agricultural sector, which is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
The massive beef processing plant is being revamped under a US$400 million joint venture farming concession agreement with Boustead Beef Zimbabwe, a United Kingdom-based investor.
So far, US$24 million has been pumped into the business with a target to slaughter 1 500 beasts per day.
In line with the Agriculture and Foods Systems Transformation Strategy, Dr Chiwenga said the re-opening of CSC signals an important milestone in the transformation of the country’s economy.
This buttresses the livestock growth plan (2021-2025), one of the five anchors of the Agriculture and Foods Systems Transformation Strategy envisaged to growth the livestock sub-sector to US$1,9 billion by 2025 from the current US$900 million.
Already, a cocktail of interventions that include improved nutrition, animal genetics, animal health, farmer knowledge on best management practices and access to high value domestic and export markets are being pursued.
“Today is a great day, what had been sent to the dust bins has come back and the Cold Storage Company is here to stay and will never again go into the state in which we saw it happening for so many years under our watchful eyes,” said VP Chiwenga.
“The plant is a key component in the beef production value chain. May I hasten to state that this event is a crucial indicator of the private sector’s resolve to stimulate growth of the livestock such-sector by providing a steady market for the slaughter stock for our livestock farmers.”
To date, Dr Chiwenga said, US$24 million has been invested to resuscitate the company, which has been idle for the past 22 years.
“This sub-sector has a strong private sector-led livestock value chain comprising beef, dairy, pork, sheep, sheep and poultry production systems, which are actively participating in the implementation of the Livestock Growth Plan,” he said.
Boustead Beef Zimbabwe’s main mandate is to revive the strategic company’s operations across the country by refurbishing industrial assets such as ranches, feedlots and residential properties.
It rejoins the sector that has an increasing number of registered abattoirs in the country that processed more than 75 000 metric tons of meat last year. Dr Chiwenga said with over 90 percent of livestock owned by small holder farmers who provide 85 percent of the slaughter stock , the importance of Boustead Beef in the marketing of livestock is crucial.
He noted that the firm intends to grow its daily slaughter to 1 500 at full operational capacity, hence smallholder livestock farmers who contribute about 90 percent of the slaughter stock will play a crucial role in the operations.
To that end, Dr Chiwenga directed Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, and Boustead investor representative Mr Nick Havercroft to ensure that each month there is a progressive increase on slaughter rate until the 1 500 mark per day is reached.
“It provides a competitive market for the smallholder livestock farmers who have suffered huge losses though middlemen and other unscrupulous buyers,” said Dr Chiwenga.
“The goal of the Government is to develop the livestock sub-sector as a whole. Government is also committed to the opening of high value markets, such as the Boustead Beef-Cold Storage Company for cattle, goats and sheep. There is evidence that this will stimulate production along the value chain nodes.”
The VP also said that rural livestock farmers who have been getting raw a deal are guaranteed of a vibrant market should ride on CSC to generate higher incomes leading to the transformation of livelihoods.
Another benefit for rural livestock farmers is on the setting up of unique feedlots along the lake Gwayi- Shangani project.
“Boustead Beef-Cold Storage Company will provide a unique feedlot and grazing model for communal farmers which will increase the value of their cattle. Therefore, this model will enable communal farmers to be paid twice, at delivery of the cattle to the feedlot and after fattening at slaughter.
“Boustead Beef Cold Storage Company has already secured US$36 million for this feedlot and grazing purchase scheme for communal farmers. This model should increase the cattle offtake from six percent to the targeted 15 percent by 2015. We, therefore, envisage that 266 sales pens throughout the country will be re-established,” said Dr Chiwenga.
Dr Masuka and his deputy, Davis Marapira, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Judith Ncube, several senior Government official and farmers union representatives joined VP Chiwenga on a tour of the massive plant during which several beasts were slaughtered.
In her remarks, Minister Ncube said major progress has been made in resuscitating CSC and regions around the city, which are renowned for livestock production will immensely benefit.
“The beef sector is the backbone of the industries in Matabeleland region and it is my hope that resuscitating Cold Storage Company will bring with it the much needed investment in the livestock value chain as well as empowerment of local farmers,” she said
Minister Ncube said as a region, they expect that once the resuscitations complete, CSC would resume exporting to the European Union and other markets.
Dr Masuka said the revival of CSC was an important win for Vision 2030 and as such there must be a robust strategy to revamp the entire sector.
“This is a significant event under the Second Republic, the revival of CSC, which has been idle for 22 years is a firm indication that the economy is on a recovery path. We are happy that Vice President Chiwenga shoot the first beast in the resuscitation of CSC,” he said.
CSC used to play a leading role in the processing and marketing of Zimbabwe’s beef since its inception in 1937.
Since 1992, CSC largely survived on EU exports and had a $15 million revolving payment facility with the bloc.
The facility was discontinued after the EU suspended imports in 2001 following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. CSC had an annual quota of 9 100 tons and used to earn at least $45 million per year from the EU export quota.
In 2010, the cash-strapped CSC was forced to abandon an ambitious project to supply goat meat to Angola as farmers expressed dissatisfaction with supplying small stock on credit to the company.