via Zim suspends Botswana beef import deal – NewsDay Zimbabwe October 12, 2015
GOVERNMENT has reportedly suspended an import deal between the Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Botswana Meat Company to protect the local beef industry, NewsDay has learnt.
BY SILAS NKALA
When the deal collapsed early this year, officials cited the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in some parts of the country, including Botswana, but minutes of the CSC board meeting seen by this publication indicated that the government stopped the beef imports in order to safeguard local producers.
Minutes of a CSC board meeting dated September 1, 2015, indicate that cattle were being sourced from an area which was not affected by foot-and-mouth disease.
Under the deal, which was supposed to run for four years, CSC bought live cattle from Botswana and slaughtered them at its abattoirs for sale to the local market.
“The committee was informed that Zimbabwe veterinary authorities were yet to visit Botswana to verify assertions by the Botswana veterinary authorities that the area CSC was drawing its cattle imports from is far from the areas affected by the foot and mouth disease,” part of the minutes read.
“The committee was further informed that the suspension of cattle imports was mainly triggered by the need to protect local cattle producers, and not by the foot-and-mouth outbreak.”
Earlier reports had also indicated that the deal had been stalled by CSC’s failure to pay for the beef imports.
Botswana Agriculture permanent secretary Micus Chimbombi confirmed that CSC was indebted to Botswana.
“They have owed us for four years now, but have, however, acknowledged this debt and we regularly communicate with them about that issue. They seem to be willing to pay, but they do not have the funds right now,” he was quoted as saying.
CSC reportedly has a debt of close to $22 million that has seen its production going down to around 10% of capacity.
The company was at one time the largest meat processor in Africa, handling up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products each year, as well as exporting to the European Union.
More than $80 million is needed to bring the company back to its feet.