BY GERALD MUTSVAIRO
ZIMBABWE’S chances of tapping into the lucrative European Union (EU) beef market are being dampened by low production and a myriad of diseases plaguing the sector.
Zimbabwe used to be a major exporter of beef to the EU before its 9 100 tonnes export quota was suspended in 2001 on the back of a foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease outbreak that is still prevalent.
Livestock and Meats Advisory Council of Zimbabwe (LMAC) economist Reneth Mano said a recent FMD outbreak in parts of the country, such as Matabeleland South, among other challenges, had dealt a huge blow to the country’s beef export ambitions.
“Zimbabwe now has an endemic FMD problem, rendering it impossible for the EU to designate any area as FMD-free suitable to produce beef for export to the EU.
The EU has become more hyper-sensitive now than ever be on protecting its territory from tropical transboundary diseases like FMD, for which it insists on the traceability of exportable meat,” he said.
“The return to such a comprehensive EU compliant system would require a critical mass of beef exports of not less than 11 000 metric tonnes.”
Mano said the other challenge reducing commercial prospects for exporting to the EU any time soon was the fact that currently, the prime beef in the EU commanded a current wholesale price of US$4,27 per kg.
“This European market is no longer as attractive as it used to be in the 1990s when the Zimdollar was much weaker than the US [United States] dollar and
domestic prices of beef were much lower than presently. The same EU export deboned quality and trimmed beef would fetch a wholesale price of US$4,21/kg to
US$4,74/kg in the high-end domestic market already short on supers and choices,” he said.
According to the Agriculture ministry, the national cattle herd grew 10% to an estimated herd of 5,75 million in 2018, of which five million belongs to
smallholder communal and A1 farming sectors.
However, despite the country registering this, growth production levels still fall far short from the required EU quota.
“Commercial slaughters are only 266 000 beef cattle per year, of which less than 18% is export grade super/choice yielding 3,421 metric tonnes of trimmed
deboned export quality super/choice beef. This is not enough to meet the domestic demand from high-end beef market. It is also way below the 9 000 metric
tonnes to 14 000 metric tonnes export quota Zimbabwe would hope to get from the EU,” Mano said.
Agricultural economist Mandivamba Rukuni also said Zimbabwe’s chances of exporting beef to Europe were currently non-existent.
“The whole sector has changed. The country no longer has the quality of beef needed to meet European standards. The Cold Storage Company, which used to be the
main beef exporter, does not slaughter much now, and I do not think the private sector has the adequate infrastructure for them to attract EU funders. So in
the short term Zimbabwe has no real chance of exporting to Europe,” Rukuni said.