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Biti defends poultry import decision

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Finance Minister Tendai Biti has defended government’s decision in August to lift a ban on poultry imports imposed in March, saying the trade restriction had resulted in shortages and bid up prices to unacceptable levels.

The ban covered poultry and dairy products, meat, stock feeds and live animals.

“Poultry producers came to me begging that they could meet demand and asked for protection to be able to do so,” Biti said. “I agreed and announced a ban.

But in two months there was virtually no chicken in the shops and the price (of full chicken) had shot from $4 to $8 dollars. I then said to myself, ‘is this what these guys were asking to do?’”

Biti’s remarks are a response to a public outcry by the Zimbabwe Poultry Association that the rescission policy threatened to erode the capacity gains the industry had achieved during five months of market protection.

Solomon Zawe, Zimbabwe Poultry Association chairman, said the import ban had boosted local production capacity to 75%, from around 10% in March and argued the rescission decision should have been delayed to give the industry time to prepare for competition against cheaper genetically modified (GM) livestock.

“The industry had not realized the full benefits of the ban,” Zawe said. “We need a level playing field, we are not allowed to use GMO’s feeds in our livestock’s when the country is importing GMO feed livestocks, which are cheap and have 30%-40% bran solution.”

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