Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Cold Storage Company (CSC) has started refurbishing its infrastructure and ranches across the country as the firm prepares to resume full scale operations, which will create more than 600 jobs under a US$400 million deal.
Zimbabwe’s largest meat processor and marketer secured a lifeline after an investor, Boustead Beef, poured in millions of dollars to help revamp the company. The US$400 million facility will be spread over the next three to four years.
Speaking by telephone yesterday, Boustead Beef Zimbabwe managing director Mr Nick Havercroft said engineers were already on the ground at CSC working on refurbishing equipment.
“Right now we have all the engineers in there. We have to refurbish the whole plant as it hasn’t worked for 15 years. Our main challenge are the compressors, which were specifically made for this plant.
“We will start small operations of about 300 herds a week and there is a section which we can fix faster than the whole main complex and have it up and running in about 10 weeks’ time,” he said.
“The problem is it hasn’t worked for 15 or 20 years, so we have to replace all the pipes for the cold room. So, it’s a very big job and we are confident certainly by August or September we will have it fully functional.”
Mr Havercroft said their focus was on refurbishing the Bulawayo plant first after which similar exercises would be undertaken in Masvingo, Chinhoyi, and Marondera branches and abattoirs.
“Following Masvingo will be Chinhoyi, which we are expecting to be operational beginning the first quarter of 2020. Marondera is in a very bad state and it will take us a very long time to refurbish,” he said.
Boustead Beef Zimbabwe is also repairing infrastructure at CSC’s ranches.
“At the ranches we have bulldozers that have started clearing the fence lines . . . so all that work is ongoing and the main work is on the engineering side, which we think will take about six months before we have the cold room in Bulawayo fully operational,” Mr Havercroft said.
Revival of companies has been a key priority under the Second Republic whose administration is led by President Mnangagwa. The resuscitation of CSC will go a long way in improving the economy through beef exports as it will unlock value in the livestock industry. At its peak, the beef processor and marketer used to handle up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually and exported to the European Union, where it had an annual quota of 9 100 tonnes of beef.
The company used to earn the country about $45 million per year. Asked about the employment figures at CSC as a result of the turnaround strategy being implemented, Mr Havercroft said: “Currently, there are only about 240 people employed. As we get Bulawayo up and running we will add another 400 into the operation so we will have up to about 650. We are putting in a much more efficient system, a brand new IT (Information Technology) system. A lot of work was done manually in the past but this time head office will have less people,” he said.
“And we are also bringing in a logistics division. We are forecasting over 120 vehicles so straight away that’s 120 jobs for the drivers. But going forward, as we bring Masvingo online, we will employ 200-300 people there, same with Chinhoyi and actually employment will increase as we get the operations up and running.”
Boustead Beef Zimbabwe, which is being financed by various equity investors from the United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Australia, will take-over CSC’s legacy debt of close to $100 million. — @okazunga.