The Sunday News
REPORTS that the deal between the Government and United Kingdom company, Boustead Beef (Boustead) to revive the Cold Storage Company (CSC) is facing challenges is sad.
This is obviously sad news for the livestock farmer as the news for the possible resurrection of this meat giant was met with nostalgic excitement especially among those who had the opportunity to witness this massive company in operation during the 1980s.
It is that huge influence which the company had on the livestock sector and its good business practice that makes many who interfaced with it, to wish for its urgent revival.
While the company probably did a lot for the livestock industry albeit under a monopoly, it was its extensive outreach of formal livestock markets that farmers enjoyed. The country is still littered with now dilapidated cattle sales infrastructure which formed part of the livestock marketing hubs.
It was the death of these cattle sales which gave rise and prominence to the concept of middlemen in the livestock industry. As CSC gradually became incapacitated and could no longer service most of its remote buying points, the gap was quickly filled by the predatory unscrupulous middlemen who were and are still prepared to bleed the farmer dry.
The nostalgic excitement about the resurrection of CSC was on the basis that livestock farmers in remote parts of our districts would begin to interface directly with the buyer not via a middleman as is the existing scenario in most areas.
Animals would be transported either for free in lieu of the fifth quarter or for very nominal charges. Sadly this might not happen anymore if the deal fails to go ahead.
Perhaps the company is now beyond redemption. One other aspect which excited farmers about a possible regeneration of CSC was its support in growing the livestock farmers. One of its products was the heifer loan scheme whose detail I may not have but suffice to say a lot of successful livestock farmers today got jump-started by this loan.
Farmers got heifers and they paid for them over a stipulated timeframe. The scheme was meant to both jump-start budding farmers and also to support other farmers to restock after losses due to drought.
If you suffer livestock losses due to drought you will have to dig deeper into your own pockets and support systems to bounce back or else you may sink forever and many have sunk with no return!
There is obviously a lot more things that CSC did for the livestock farmer and industry including access to export markets but I may not be able to catalogue all its beneficial activities to the livestock farmer. The objective was to bolster the livestock industry, then having a giant like CSC to continue in its vegetative state is not an option.
This is therefore a call for the Government negotiators to go back to the drawing board and find a solution to whatever problem might be there. The industry and the farmer need the presence and participation of this sleeping giant, to shake things up and bring life and hope in this sector which has degenerated into extractive and exploitative mode of the years.
We need a player who has wishes to grow the sector, fully appreciating that the existence of the industry squarely depends on the survival of the farmer. While the progress of the deal is obviously heartbreaking to those who spent time in the engagement process, we caution against giving up on the noble cause of reviving this important player.
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