Cattle farmers and leaders of political parties in the Matabeleland have described a recent beef import deal between the Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Botswana as “a big scandal”, which could jeopardise livelihoods of ranchers in the region.
Last week, the Zimbabwe government, through the CSC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Botswana allowing for the importation of 30 000 cattle from Botswana for immediate slaughter to curtail the spread of foot-and-mouth disease along the two countries’ common border.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made and his Botswana counterpart, Christiaan De-Graaff, signed the deal in Bulawayo last week.
But, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union chairman for Matabeleland South, Ernest Ndlovu, described the move as a scandal.
“This should have been a programme to give farmers cattle to rear. That they are for slaughter is shocking. This is a scandal,” he said.
Bulilima West MP Moses Mzila-Ndlovu (MDC-N) yesterday told NewsDay that most families in his constituency relied on cattle to raise money for school fees and the deal would flood the market and threaten their normal livelihood.
“This is going to depress the price of beef and therefore the price of cattle will come down. People in our constituencies are going to be poorer as a result because when they want to sell for school fees next term, they will be forced to do so at giveaway prices,” he said.
Mzila-Ndlovu said it was amazing that the Zimbabwean government was now involved in buying cattle for slaughter.
“Since when has government bought cattle for resale? I am protesting as a border MP. Where will the people sell their cattle now? If Zimbabweans were really concerned about their rural folk, they should boycott buying that meat,” he said.
In a statement, Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said government’s decision to sign the MoU with Botswana “without consulting local cattle producers” would have grave consequences for cattle ranchers in the region.
“It is obvious the bringing-in of 30 000 cattle for slaughter will flood the market and cause a drastic reduction in the price of cattle. While this may be welcomed by consumers nationally, it is also true that cattle farmers mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands would lose potential revenue as cattle prices drop,” he said.