CSC set to export to Russia

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STRUGGLING meat processor and distributor, Cold Storage Company (CSC) is set for revitalisation following indications that the country will soon start exporting beef to Russia.
The development comes as Russia is seeking alternative source markets for beef and other related supplies after the country banned food imports from the West in retaliation to imposed sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
Products subject to the one year embargo include beef, pork, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese, milk and other dairy products from the US, Canada, the European Union, Norway and Australia.
The deal mulled last week during a visit to Zimbabwe by the Russian delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov and Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, will see the CSC revive production which has gone down to below five percent in the last decade.
The two countries agreed agricultural equipment, production and development of agribusiness were one of the priority areas of joint development.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Minister, Joseph Made said Russia will soon dispatch a technical team to Harare to examine the technicalities of beef exports and other possible areas of cooperation in the agricultural sector.
“This is a chance to revive the CSC, which used to be very active in the livestock and meat sector,” said Minister Made.
“We are excited with the opportunities that will be availed by co-operation between the two countries in the agricultural sector.
“We are expecting a technical mission from Russia anytime that will examine the opportunities that exist in the country.”
Minister Made said Russia has also offered to provide pharmaceutical and veterinary assistance to the country which will ensure that the country produces quality meat.
“Russia has advised that it is ready to provide support in terms of machinery and equipment to those farmers that want to start dairy farming and support for poultry and pig farming,” he said.
“The assistance will also extend to irrigation equipment.”
In addition, Minister Made said Russia expressed interest in beneficiating the beef into canned products.
The country’s beef industry has been struggling since the European Union (EU) banned meat imports from Zimbabwe and has not recovered ever since.
The EU banned the country’s beef exports in August 2001 after a foot and mouth disease outbreak which has since been contained.
The country’s cattle population has declined from 6,8 million in 2000 to the current 5,2 million and beef slaughters have deteriorated to 200 000 from 605 000 in 2000.
However, the country is making efforts to restore the country’s beef industry.
Government, in partnership with Agribank, is reportedly finalising modalities for the mobilisation of US$50 million for lending to A2 farmers at concessionary rates of below nine percent.
Out of this amount, US$10 million will be set aside for livestock production.
Agriculture experts noted that the local beef industry has the capacity to export to Russia considering the country has a long history of producing quality beef meeting stringent requirements for such markets like the EU.
The beef industry was once the pride and joy of the commercial farming sector, with beef exports playing an important role in the economy of the country, earning over US$100 million per year.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the CSC handled an average of about 500 000 cattle a year through its abattoirs and 250 000 herd of cattle through the feedlots and cattle ranches.
And the cattle finance scheme financed about 600 000 herd of cattle on commercial farms.
Total cattle numbers were about 5,7 million with two million on commercial farms and five million in communal areas. 
The total annual kill was about 700 000 to 800 000.
Local sales ran at about 80 000 to 100 000 tonnes a year by the CSC with the balance of output going to export, perhaps 25 000 to 40 000 tonnes a year.
Export sales were more than 25 500 tonnes with EU importing 9 000 tonnes, Angola (12 000 tonnes), Indian Ocean Islands (3 000 tonnes) and Switzerland (1 500 tonnes).
Agriculture analysts believe the deal brokered with the Russians will see the country surpass these figures.
They say the partnership will also have a positive effect on the country’s import and export bill.
According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, from January to July this year, the volume of Russo-Zimbabwean turnover compared to the same period in 2013 already showed a positive trend, increasing by 52,1 percent to US$22,2 million.
Currently, Zimbabwe is importing fertilisers, building materials, spare parts and equipment from Russia, while it exports mainly tobacco, fruits and souvenirs to Russia.

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