The Zimbabwe-Botswana cattle deal that briefly helped prop up sluggish operations at Cold Storage Company (CSC) abattoirs, is not up for renewal, but the parastatal should build on the momentum gained through the arrangement to bounce back to viability, a Cabinet minister has said.
Last year CSC marginally picked up production as a result of close to 45 000 Botswana cattle slaughtered at CSC premises in Bulawayo.
State Enterprises and Parastatals minister Gordon Moyo told NewsDay on Monday CSC should not be allowed to slide back to the pre-deal era.
“The arrangement with Botswana was circumstantial in that it (Botswana) was facing foot-and-mouth disease,” said Moyo.
“The deal is not up for renewal. However, there are many successes that were scored under the tenure which we should not let go. CSC should capitalise on the achievements and build on it.”
Moyo said the pre-deal period should be avoided and the government was currently in the process of exploring means of revitalising the parastatal.
“We are looking at leasing out CSC premises, going the joint venture route or letting other players come in,” said Moyo.
Moyo said the revival of CSC, which used to be a vibrant player in the local beef industry, was strategic in revamping industries in Bulawayo.
“As the government, we are devising strategies of reversing de-industrialisation in Bulawayo and CSC sits perfectly in that position. We have ready resources in the region which is predominantly cattle-ranching and CSC should get back to on its feet again,” said Moyo.
In July last year, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana allowing for the importation of cattle for immediate slaughter to curtail the risk of foot-and-mouth disease spreading as Botswana had high incidence of the disease, particularly in areas along the border with Zimbabwe.
Close to 45 000 cattle were slaughtered at CSC premises in Bulawayo.
That situation saw CSC recruiting additional workforce to cope with the workload. CSC has several abattoirs around the country and at its peak, had a capacity to slaughter 600 000 cattle annually.
CSC had slumped in the past years and the deal provided a lifeline for the financially hamstrung parastatal, which has been facing operational constraints and is one of 10 entities earmarked for privatisation.
The viability of the company also 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 European Union of 9 100 tonnes of beef. It also had $15 million revolving payment facility with the EU under which it was paid in advance.
The company used to earn the country at least $45 million per year.