'20 000 cattle die due to drought'

HARARE - Between 18 000 and 22 000 cattle may have died so far since last year as a result of the drought caused by El Nino, Zimbabwe Abattoirs Association chairperson Godfrey Chanetsa said.

While presenting oral evidence to the agriculture committee, Chanetsa said in some areas where rains came late, they managed to salvage a few beasts.

El Nino is a climatic phenomenon that occurs above the Pacific Ocean every five years and causes extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods in many regions of the world.

“As at January 20, 2016, a total of 14 056 cattle had died due to drought. Masvingo recorded 4 925 deaths, Manicaland 3 111, Matabeleland North 3 451, Matabeleland South 1 268 and Midlands 1 301 deaths.

“A partnership has been proposed between government, abattoir operators and cattle producers experiencing drought stress which facilitates the establishment of feedlots, the procurement of raw materials for feed manufacture and the distribution of survival feeds to preserve core breeding animals,” he said.

Chanetsa, however, said that cultural practices make it difficult to save cattle as some communal farmers do not believe in destocking as they fear losing their wealth status.

Turning to pricing, Chanetsa said it is wrong to believe that members of the association are now taking advantage of the drought to short-change farmers.

“There is a conception that cattle producers are being short-changed at abattoirs but that is not the case. The beasts we see at exhibitions have been fattened and are worth more while the cattle in communal areas mainly survive on grazing pastures, are smaller and worth less,” he said.

He, however added that general grade beef, which is of the lowest quality and retails at about 90 cents per kilogramme, is more in demand than super grade beef which now sells at about $3,80 per kilogramme.

Chanetsa said at the peak of beef exports, commercial farmers produced about 55 percent of the country’s meat supply, but since the 2000 land reform programme about 95 percent of all beef consumed in Zimbabwe now comes from communal farmers.

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