By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, February 18, 2016—Zimbabwe should not be a cry baby but instead be smart and find ways on how she could revive beef exports in the face of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak currently ravaging six provinces of the country, a consultant has said.
The country’s beef industry has been struggling for over a decade, since the European Union (EU) banned meat imports from Zimbabwe due to FMD outbreaks and has not recovered ever since.
EU banned Zimbabwean beef exports in August 2001 after a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak which was also recently detected in Midlands, Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces.
Beef production was once the pride for the commercial farming sector, contributing $100 million per year.
However, according to a South African-based internationally renowned livestock consultant firm, TAD Scientific’s director Gavin Thompson, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to develop its exports of beef if it embraces smart ways of doing business and practice best entrepreneurship.
“It has a lot to do with entrepreneurship and we got to be smart. Farmers in Zimbabwe can use all the tools that they have at their disposal to make livestock farming more profitable,” Thompson said in an interview with RadioVOP on the sidelines of the multi-stakeholder meeting for the development of a national FMD control strategy for Zimbabwe held in Bulawayo Tuesday.
He said countries such as India and Kenya were thriving despite being heavily hit by FMD as Zimbabwe.
FMD according to livestock experts is a viral infection that causes fever and blisters in animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, some wild animals (buffalos).The blisters mainly affect the animal’s mouth and feet.
Meanwhile, Thompson said consuming beef infected with FMD was not a health hazard.
He said he worked closely with infected animals but never got infected.
Speaking during the same occasion, director division of veterinary services Josphat Nyika said Zimbabwe has over the past year experienced incessant FMD outbreaks with the disease now having spread into six of the country’s eight provinces, in spite of government efforts to control outbreaks, through rigorous livestock vaccination campaigns and enforcement of strict movement restrictions.
He said a recurrent drought in the country, most severe in the southern and western parts of the country, has unfortunately forced communal farmers to move their livestock to areas adjacent to national parks, in search of relief grazing and water sources.
“This has increased buffalo/cattle contact and worsening the potential for the spread of the disease,” he said.
Nyika said the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanization Irrigation and Development has managed to reduce the impact of FMD despite challenges in accessing adequate resources to fund disease control programs.
“Livestock productivity and farmer livelihoods in affected areas have been severely affected. The increased risk of FMD incursion into traditionally FMD ‘free zones’ and into neighbouring countries, is an indisputable possibility,” he said.
“The current scenario also places limitations on the country’s level of competitiveness as a result of non-compliance to regional and international trade conditions.”
He added that effective management of FMD was therefore essential if the country was to fully exploit the potential trade opportunities that exist with improved livestock production and health.
He said FAO through various donors, offered FMD support to Zimbabwe, from as far back as 2006 to date.
“This support has been just under $10 million,” he said.
Currently, Nyika said government was receiving support for anthrax and FMD control through a four year €8 million, European Union-funded project known as “Increased Household Food, Income and Nutrition Security through Commercialization of an Integrated and Sustainable Smallholder Livestock Sector in Zimbabwe”
The workshop was organised by the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, in collaboration with key partners, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Union.