THE European Union (EU) says the ban on Zimbabwean beef to the region has not been lifted, quashing last month’s public relations puff that “millions in
foreign currency” will be chalked up soon by the cash-strapped government.
In an exclusive interview the Head of the European Commission to Zimbabwe Francesca Mosca said: “Zimbabwe imposed a self-ban on beef exports to the European Union since 2001 and this has not been lifted.
The ban was related to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Before the ban was imposed, Zimbabwe had a beef export quota to the EU of 9 100 tonnes per year under the ‘Beef and Veal Protocol’ under the Lomé IV Convention.”
Mosca said this quota was worth more than $2 billion.
“In 2001, before the ban, Zimbabwe had exported around 4 500 tonnes worth about $1,5 billion,” Mosca said. “In 2002 the European Commission spent 17,2 million euro on projects in Zimbabwe and 28,6 million euro have so far been approved for projects in 2003. Apart from this, the amount spent on/approved for food aid during 2002 and 2003 is 79,5 million euro.”
The Cold Storage Company (CSC) – reeling under a $7 billion debt – handles all beef exports to the EU.
The parastatal, chaired by industrialist and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Anthony Mandiwanza, is engaged in a wrangle with five commercial banks that are struggling to receive payment for outstanding debts.
The European Council renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe in February this year.
It is reliably understood that the CSC has failed to fulfill its 9 100 export quota to the EU because the Department of Veterinary Services – also in the red – cannot source about US$500 000 for foot-and-mouth disease vaccines.
An export deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hangs in the balance because the Congolese are allegedly not paying government the agreed United States dollars, preferring barter deals instead.
In a major U-turn about two years ago, seen by business executives as a political appeasement arrangement for disgruntled indigenous businessmen, government gave Farirayi Quality Foods (Pvt) Ltd the go-ahead to also export beef.
The company, whose boss is John Mapondera, was allowed to export beef to Libya following President Robert Mugabe’s visit to that country in search of fuel and alternative markets other than the EU and US.
Beef exports to Libya have, however, failed to pick up mainly because of religious differences with Zimbabwe arising from the treatment of the meat.
To worsen the beef exports saga, Zimbabwe’s commercial beef herd has nose-dived during the past three years from 1,4 million head to the current estimated 250 000.
The herd dropped following government’s controversial fast track land resettlement programme two years ago that resulted in commercial farmers not restocking since they were unsure of their fate.
CSC acting chief executive officer Ngoni Chinogaramombe last week said while the commercial herd had been “significantly reduced”, the non-commercial herd had remained stable at an estimated five million.
He said the CSC would soon begin “reaping the benefits” of the “resuscitated” Cattle Finance Scheme during the third quarter of this year.
This scheme had been abandoned in the 1990s when the then Cold Storage Commission felt it was not part of its mandate.
Chinogaramombe said the Cattle Finance Scheme was targeted at the commercial farming sector and the recently resettled Model A2 farmers.