Beef export scam exposed

TINASHE MAKICHI

 

A meat cartel co-ordinated by four leading abattoirs is said to be smuggling at least 160,000kg of fillet beef steak per month into Mozambique in transit to European and Asian markets, it has emerged.

An investigation by Business Times over the last few weeks found out that the abattoirs (names supplied) bribe officers at Zimbabwe’s borders, which are porous, meaning the country is losing millions of dollars through smuggling.

The investigation also found out that one animal has about 8kg of fillet steak. According to insiders, abattoirs across the country slaughter about 20,000 cattle on average per month, translating to about 160,000kg a month.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) spokesperson John Makamure told Business Times that the anti-graft commission will act once a complaint has been lodged.

“We have not yet received such a complaint. ZACC will investigate once a complaint has been lodged,” Makamure said.

However, there is a severe shortage of fillet in the local butcheries and shops around the country, pointing to the cartel smuggling the meat into European markets.

“….The country has been slaughtering an average of 20,000 beasts per month. Therefore, that means the country has been producing 160,000kg of fillet  steak but you will never see that steak in butcheries and shop shelves,” one source told Business Times.

“This special type of steak is smuggled every day to European and Asian markets through Mozambique by a cartel consisting of four abattoirs. This cartel has been making a killing out of this smuggling taking advantage of the country’s porous borders.”

The source added: “This is the real business driving the operations of these abattoirs. They have been the biggest masterminds of smuggling fillet steak mostly to Mozambique. This means the cartel is racking in close to US$3m every month from this well-orchestrated smuggling ring.”

Some of the sources are employees of the big four accused abattoirs in the country. Others are former employees of the abattoirs.

The latest development comes at a time when Zimbabwe’s beef exports resumed in 2017, years after the country’s exports were banned because of foot-and-mouth disease.

Zimbabwe’s beef industry had also been hit by crippling economic sanctions imposed on the country by Western nations.

Mismanagement of livestock farms worsened the situation.

According to a document seen by Business Times this week, in 2020, only US$6m worth of beef was exported to France while there was no beef exported to Mozambique the whole of 2020.

This is despite most beef that is exported has been done under the pretext of being destined for Mozambique.

Contacted for a comment, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Sekai Nzenza said she had not received reports on the smuggling of fillet beef steak.

But, she promised to look into the matter.

“I have not heard about this but I think it’s a very serious matter to be investigated. Abattoirs would fall under agriculture but of course we oversee processing and pricing. We would need to find out more,” Nzenza said.

Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Resettlement, Anxious Masuka, were futile.

At the attainment of independence in 1980, State-owned meat processor, the Cold Storage Company (CSC) used to be one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners, exporting thousands of tonnes of beef to the European Union.

However, the industry became dormant following the closure of CSC. This opened an opportunity for new players who, however, have been smuggling beef into the European market that was previously supplied by the state-owned company.

The industry has been slowly getting back to its feet.

 

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