SUGAR producer Hippo Valley Estates has piled up pressure on the European Union (EU) to wind up a three-year investigation into the export of sugar into
the EU by companies using Hippo’s quota.
The companies, believed to be domiciled outside Zimbabwe, were falsifying certificates of origin and taking up Hippo’s quota under the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) arrangement.
The fraudulent exports are believed to be part of a well orchestrated scandal that has seen several other African companies being robbed of their quotas by dubious firms generating fake certificates of origins.
Businessdigest could not immediately establish the identity of the companies involved in the scam, believed to have taken place over a long period of time.
Hippo Valley, which has had a long-standing dispute with government over Mkwasine Estates which was listed for compulsory acquisition under government’s land reform programme, said in a notice to shareholders that 6 858 tonnes of sugar had been exported to the EU through the illegal trade.
Hippo says the dispute over Mkwasine remains unresolved, although government has already resettled A2 farmers on 90% of the estate.
The company however said government was backing it in its efforts to resolve the dispute of stolen quota supplies, and was, in fact, lobbying to get the companies involved in the scandal exposed.
“Despite continuing pressure from the Zimbabwe authorities, the European Commission has still not finalised its investigations into the fraudulent import of 6 858 tonnes of Zimbabwe’s ACP quota under false certificates of origin,” Hippo said.
Without giving details, the EU’s Zimbabwe press and information officer Josiah Kusena confirmed that a series of meetings had been held between the EU, the government of Zimbabwe and Hippo officials in the past few months over the dispute.
He however referred businessdigest to the organisation’s head of food security who had not yet responded to questions submitted to his office on Monday.
Hippo, whose failure to supply its prescribed sugar quota to the EU had been widely perceived to be a result of the disruptions caused to the country’s farming sector by government’s chaotic agrarian reforms, said it was still capable of supplying all preferential quota export markets to the EU, the United States of America and bilateral regional export markets during the current marketing season.
The company did not, however, say how it had failed to supply its prescribed quotas which had been fraudulently taken over by the unidentified companies against which it has launched a complaint with the EU.
The fraudulent exports were direct results of Hippo Valley’s failure to meet its export quota to that region after A2 farmers invaded part of its estates, resulting in a slide in production and output.
Cane throughput at Hippo’s mill was below target during the current marketing season due to a combination of critical mill spares shortages, caused by foreign currency deficiencies, Hippo said.
Sources indicated this week that commodity companies in Mauritius had experienced similar problems involving companies taking up their quotas for the supply of timber to the EU market.
Most of the companies stealing Mauritius’ quotas were from South America.
The dubious exports by the fraudulent companies deprive the owners of the relevant quotas with potential revenue.