Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
AGRICULTURE, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made has issued a stern warning to the newly-appointed Cold Storage Company (CSC) board to abide by his directive in efforts to turn around the fortunes of the parastatal.
Last month, Dr Made announced a new CSC board which includes three members from the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) by virtue of the organisation having invested in the parastatal. Nssa has availed an initial $18 million capital injection.
Mrs Sylvia Jiyane Khumalo chairs the board and is deputised by Mr Nemrod Chiminya who is a seasoned technical person.
Committee members are Mrs Emily Mumbengegwi, Mr Peter Nyoni, Mrs Cecilia Paradza, Mr Bekithemba Nkomo, Dr Anxious Masuka, Mrs Rufaro Mazunze, Mr Khodholo Setaboli, Ministry of Agriculture representatives Dr Unesu Ushewokunze Obatolu, an animal research expert and Engineer Reston Muzamhindo.
“The (CSC) board should pay interest to matters I will be raising with them and the ones I will call on them to do,” said Dr Made in a telephone interview.
Renowned livestock production and management expert Dr Ronny Sibanda of Dial-Honour Consultancy said the company should work on improving its relations with other stakeholders in the sector as well as coming up with a new business model.
“We expect the new board to come up with a good and radical plan or business model and we also expect CSC to develop a good relationship with industry players so that they become part of the business,” said Dr Sibanda.
Another livestock production expert Mr Muhle Masuku reiterated Dr Sibanda’s sentiments stating that CSC should come up with a business model to enable it to withstand competition against other players in the livestock industry.
“The livestock industry landscape has changed drastically since the departure of CSC from the helm. Private abattoirs have taken pivotal positions and are not going to be intimidated easily. I take it that the board and Ministry of Agriculture (Mechanisation and Irrigation Development) are well aware of this fact.
“It is my assumption that the new board will look at current inefficiencies like bad hygiene standards, poor relations between farmers and processors, poor processing standards among other things then decide on the most profitable role they can play.
They cannot re-live the past, a whole new world is beckoning,” said Mr Masuku.
He said the company should also work on reviving its beef export markets particularly in Europe and Asia.
“I hope they will take advantage of their export connections and worldwide recognition and I think a well thought-out plan to engage farmers is a must. However, I expected farmers’ unions to also be represented significantly . . . I also don’t think the traditional role of buy, slaughter and sell will work,” said Mr Masuku.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union Matabeleland North provincial chairman Mr Winston Babbage, however, expressed dismay over the composition of the board.
“I am frustrated that there is no representation from farmers’ unions on the board and somehow it’s more of recycling the same people that have been in the system before and we are wondering why the ministry didn’t consult the unions before coming up with the board,” said Mr Babbage.
Four years ago, the ailing meat processor and marketer sent its turnaround strategy to Government. The company’s demise started in 2001 after the European Union suspended imports of beef and related products from Zimbabwe following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease and illegal econonomic sanctions by the West that followed.
During its peak CSC also used to buy cattle from farmers and offered highly competitive prices. However, it stopped doing so about a decade ago due to lack of finance. It also had a number of programmes which benefited both the company and the cattle producers such as the heifer or oxen exchange. Through these schemes the company exchanged heifers and productive cows for slaughter stock.
The company is now surviving mostly on slaughter fees and rentals it receives from leasing its properties. Its slaughter rate has been on a free fall over the last decade and are half down from 50 000 to below 2 000 cattle per month. Earlier efforts to revive the company failed.