The Sunday News
WHEN having conversations with livestock farmers on various discussion platforms, the issue of the revival of Cold Storage Company(CSC) keeps coming up.
I have also written a couple of times about the same CSC and its role in the beef value chain in this country.
However, most of the time discussions have tended to focus on the abattoir operations or the livestock market role of CSC and neglected the other important roles which it played in trying to help the livestock farmer.
I am personally convinced that there are enough abattoirs in this country to take up the space created by the folding of the giant CSC in terms of buying cattle from livestock farmers.
We have over a hundred registered abattoirs of different classes in this country. However, it is that other component of farmer support which CSC did which the current abattoirs have failed to take up and hence creating a yawning gap.
CSC looked at the livestock value chain in its completeness not just bits and pieces of its sections like what the current crop of abattoirs do.
They are mostly if not only interested in animals coming to their premises for slaughter, nothing beyond the gates of the abattoir. CSC understood that deliberate steps had to be taken to develop the livestock value chains in toto in order to ensure longevity of the industry.
Current abattoir operators are only extractive offering nothing regarding development of the industry. One major aspect which CSC used to help livestock farmers with was offering of breeding stock loans.
There is quite a good number of people who are now respected livestock farmers because they benefited from a heifer loan scheme which was run by CSC.
I know a number of people who got more than 20 heifers as a loan to start or increase their herd. Those farmers have never looked back and today they are serious livestock farmers running herds of over 200 animals. If only the current abattoir operators could adopt the same approach of developing and equipping livestock farmers.
Admittedly these operators are far much smaller than the towering CSC but if they could bite even the smallest chunk from the huge piece of livestock farmers that need to be supported, it could help. It is no secret that most of these big abattoir operators also run huge ranches.
Is there no possibility of developing a model which can see their ranches supporting established and upcoming livestock farmers with breeding stock? Is it not possible for the apex operators in the livestock value chains to partner with banks and provide loans to farmers inform of breeding stock?
Maybe it’s a big ask but my point is that apex operators in the livestock value chains, who are predominantly abattoir operators and meat wholesalers, should do more than simply mine without developing the resource base of the value chain.
Another area where abattoir operators can come in and help develop the livestock value chains, is breed improvement. It is no secret that close to 90 percent of our national herd is held by the smallholder farmers.
It is also true that most of the animals belonging to smallholder farmers are mainly of poor quality, with ever deteriorating frame sizes due to inbreeding effects.
Will it be asking for too much if this pen can challenge abattoir operators to invest in breed improvement efforts to reverse the effects of inbreeding.
Simply donating 10 good quality bulls in one community can have massive impact in changing the complexion of the breeds in that community. Why is this not being done? Is this not in the long term interest of the industry to have a large base of farmers producing good quality animals as a result of a deliberate intervention effort of a big player in the value chain?
CSC also used to help prevent livestock losses due to poverty deaths especially during drought years. Some of their ranches could be made available for relief grazing albeit on agreed terms.
Our current players may not have the luxury of huge ranches like CSC did but is it not possible to develop models which can produce the same outcome of saving animals from poverty deaths even without ranches for grazing lands?
I know one operator who has helped Nkayi farmers in the past and I think that model can be replicated to other areas if abattoir operators could come on board.
The operator offered livestock farmers stock feed to save their animals from poverty death. The farmers would pay for the stock feed through swapping with animals of equivalent value to the stock feed collected. So, the truck would bring the stock feed to farmers and collect the animals used for payment of the feed.
That way the farmer is able to save his or her animals from dying and live to have a business transaction. Thus ensuring longevity of the livestock industry.
In summary, the import of this installment is that apex players in the value chain should do more than merely extract benefits from the value chain. Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo.
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