Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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CSC loses 400 cattle: 300 beasts auctioned over debts

CSC loses 400 cattle: 300 beasts auctioned over debts

0 livestock_mis
Prosper Ndlovu Business Editor—

THE troubled Cold Storage Company (CSC) had more than 300 of its cattle herd auctioned in Bulawayo over unpaid debts to different creditors. Economic analysts fear the public auction last week could result in the collapse of the giant parastatal, which is struggling to remain afloat in the face of competition from rival abattoirs.

The company’s property worth millions of dollars and more cattle are also set to go under the hammer this week over unpaid debt to creditors that include the Bulawayo City Council.

Sources within the company said 344 head of cattle have so far been auctioned under a court sanctioned sale to pay workers’ outstanding salaries from a possible 420 animals, which accounts for about two thirds of the company’s estimated 600 beasts.

In a recent notice, Hollands Auctioneers from Mutare indicated plans to auction CSC industrial property such as drilling machines, cutters and ammonia compressors.

Other property includes computers, desks and chairs in a case pitting the company against Bulawayo City Council.

“About 344 cattle were sold between Thursday and Friday last week but altogether they are supposed to be 420. Others should be sold this week. The sale is expected to raise $450,000 to clear arrears to workers that amount to close to $1 million since 2009,” said the source.

“We’ll file for another claim for the remaining amount at court. The sale also includes three houses for top managers and two vehicles – Mazda B1800 trucks. This money will be used to pay about 150 workers plus 20 who are deceased.”

The source said the beasts were auctioned at average price of $700 each.

“These are breeding cows that were expected to expand the herd in five years. There was no way workers could continue working for nothing all these years. The property had to be attached because we’ve children to feed and take to school.”

The source said the cattle were taken from different CSC ranches including Winterblock and Willsgrove.

CSC chief executive officer Ngoni Chinogaramombe could not be reached for comment while the Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of livestock, Paddy Zhanda’s mobile repeatedly rang unanswered.

Meanwhile, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) is accusing CSC management and board of “irresponsible” management of state assets.

AAG deputy president Sam Ncube said they have noted the auctioning of CSC property with anger and called on the government to take action.

“This is a national disaster, to have public property auctioned. We’re depleting the national herd at a time we need to expand it. Public assets have gone and this is a result of irresponsible management,” fumed Ncube.

“Ironically, workers will not benefit much from this. Substantial amounts of money will go to the Mutare auctioneer, some to the Deputy Sheriff and some to transporters.

“CSC should have negotiated this issue with workers but the arrogance of its management has led to this. These beasts could have fetched more money in a proper sale.”

Ncube said after this saga the government should “fire the board and management because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re sleeping on duty instead of coming with innovative ways to make the company viable”.

“We’ve reached a stage where state enterprises must be accountable and be run by capable people,” he added.

CSC’s debts have ballooned to over $25 million from $9 million in 2009, mainly from fixed costs such as wages, rates and taxes on land.

The company has capacity to slaughter 700,000 animals per year but last year it slaughtered 284,000.

Recently, Chinogaramombe told a parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture that the company had secured an investor to inject $80 million into its struggling business but government is withholding approval, demanding a forensic audit to ascertain the state of the company.

CSC was at one time the largest meat processor in Africa, handling up to 150,000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products a year and exporting beef to the European Union, where it had an annual quota of 9,100 tonnes of beef.

The CSC also had a $15 million revolving payment facility with the EU and used to earn Zimbabwe at least $45 million annually.

The firm is now operating at less than 10 percent of its capacity, employing 500 workers down from 1,500 in the 1990s.


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