Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE country’s famed beef industry collapsed at the turn of the millennium following the imposition of illegal sanctions by Western countries when the country embarked on the successful fast-track land reform programme.
Zimbabwe’s beef industry had an annual beef export quota of 9 100 metric tonnes to the lucrative European Union (EU) markets under the Beef and Veal Protocol of the Lome 1V Convention.
The beef industry, which raked in nearly US$50 million annually from exports to the European market, particularly the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands, has been heavily crippled by the adverse impact of sanctions in recent years.
The SADC summit of August 2019 in Tanzania declared October 25 as the day on which “SADC Member States can collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions (on Zimbabwe) through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted”.
The beef industry has great potential to contribute to economic growth in line with Vision 2030 aimed at attaining an upper middle-income economy.
The industry is among the key sectors earmarked to drive the turnaround of the country’s economy.
Despite the frustration being inflicted by the illegal sanctions, the country has exhibited resilience with Government under the Second Republic implementing robust policies and programmes to thwart the effects of sanctions.
Last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Livestock Growth Plan, which is part of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy that is expected to turn agriculture into an US$8,2 billion industry by 2025 and contributes towards the achievement of Vision 2030.
According to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, livestock is an important source of income for two thirds of rural households and contributes significantly to inclusive growth of the agriculture sector and the economy, as well as food and nutrition security.
Plans are underway to earn significant foreign currency for the country through livestock.
The Livestock Growth Plan was crafted after it was realised that the growth of livestock farming was stagnating, characterised by low production and productivity.
The major challenges affecting the livestock sector are associated with animal health, sanitary and food safety issues; availability of adequate nutrition in feed, pastures, fodder and water, genetic improvement issues, and access to infrastructure suitable for accessing lucrative domestic, regional and international markets and inadequate financial resources.
According to the plan, beef production is expected to grow from 50 000 tonnes to 90 000 tonnes, milk production from 79,9 million to 150 million litres, while the dairy herd will grow from 38 000 to 60 000.
It is also envisaged that irrigated pastures will grow from 100 hectares in the smallholder sector to 500 hectares, while sheep numbers will increase from 522 955 to 800 000, goats rising from 4 360 838 to 6 million, the commercial sow herd from 20 000 to 25 000 and pork production from 16 600 tonnes to 22 000 tonnes.
The growth plan is anchored on coordinated multi-stakeholder responses to livestock value chain challenges.
The transformation of the livestock sector through the Livestock Growth Plan is premised on improved animal nutrition and development of pasture green belts. The programme will explore partnerships involving Government, private sector and community to establish a span of one-kilometre irrigated pastures along rivers and around identified water bodies in the drier areas of the country.
Pastures will be divided into paddocks and will serve as business centres for rotational grazing and marketing of animals on a cost recovery basis for sustainability.
Surrounding communities will benefit from fodder on a cost recovery basis. There will be a vaccination programme for foot and mouth disease, with 650 000 animals in areas adjacent to national parks being vaccinated twice every year in August and March, to prevent transmission from buffaloes to cattle.
Farmers and beef producers said the fact that the country is reeling under sanctions, the beef industry is also bearing the brunt.
Brahman Breeders Society of Zimbabwe chairperson Mr Philip Reed said due to the illegal sanctions they have lost lucrative international markets.
“This country used to export 9 000 metric tonnes of boneless beef to international markets per year, but now that sanctions are on us, we are unable to do that anymore. We cannot do exports anymore for our beef products and sadly the current local conditions cannot support the beef industry because the prices are too low for the farmers,” he said.
“We are producing more beef than what can be eaten locally. If we had exports, we could still be able to accommodate both markets.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said the country’s beef industry has been greatly affected by the sanctions.
“At one time, we had a quota to export to the EU. A farmer should be capacitated in order for them to realise profits and for you to do that you need a market, but due to sanctions it means there is no market,” he said.
“Our beef was being exported to the European countries but now that we are under sanctions, it means we can’t export. Of course, we have a local market, but the price is subdued and as farmers we realise meaningful money through exporting for us to recapitalise. Sanctions affected beef farmers in a big way in that they could not grow.”
Dr Makombe said the Livestock Growth Plan is a step in the right direction since most farmers, particularly small-scale farmers who lost a larger chunk of livestock due to cattle diseases, would be able to recapitalise.
Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC) administrator, Dr Chrispen Sukume said sanctions are contributing towards the beef industry’s stunted growth.
“The fact that our industry is not growing enough also has an effect on other sub sectors of the economy. We are being affected if the industry is not working and the growth of the economy is also going to be very low,” he said.
“We were exporting beef to Europe duty free and Zimbabwe had a quota of 9 000 metric tonnes under the Lome Convention and in the Sadc region the countries that benefited from that preferential arrangement were ourselves, Botswana and Namibia.”
Dr Sukume said all the beef that is being produced in the country is absorbed in the local market.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said some markets are not willing to take Zimbabwean beef because of sanctions.
“Some financial institutions are looking at Zimbabwe as a red zone and thus not willing to deal with the country. A lot of people, not necessarily Government, are involved in producing beef but the markets are not willing to take Zimbabwean beef because of the challenges that have come through sanctions,” he said.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said sanctions are hurting ordinary Zimbabweans and urged the private sector to complement Government in calling for their unconditional removal.
“It is our plea that we put our differences aside so that these sanctions should be dropped unconditionally. No private player in the beef industry can go into the international market outside Africa and be easily accepted because of the sanctions that were imposed on us,” he said.
“We, therefore, need joint efforts between Government and private sector to address these issues around sanctions.
There has to be a holistic approach to overcome sanctions so that we make the international community see that Zimbabwe is not the Zimbabwe that used to be. The Government under the Second Republic has really opened up for business to everyone.”
The deputy minister said as part of efforts to mitigate against the effects of sanctions, Government has introduced several programmes.
“We have programmes such as Presidential Heifer Scheme and just recently, the President launched the pigs’ scheme and women are driving this programme quite well and there is great success. We foresee more exciting programmes coming in because under Livestock Recovery Plan, we need to increase the number of the national herd, not only looking at quantity, but the quality as well,” he said.
“We are also targeting genetics, dipping regime and increasing our herd book. Right now, the number of bulls that we have in our herd book are very few. We also have artificial insemination programmes and we have partnered with institutions like Chinhoyi University of Technology.”