REPORTS about the outbreak of avian influenza in Limpopo Province of South Africa should send a jolting signal to the responsible authorities in Zimbabwe.
I wish to implore the authorities responsible for disease control to treat this report with utmost respect and take a highly proactive approach in instituting measures that will ensure that the dreadful disease of economic importance in poultry does not cross into our borders.
The nation should be reminded of the losses that were incurred by the poultry industry in general and Irvine’s Zimbabwe in particular when the disease broke out at the latter’s farm a few years ago. The poultry giant caught a cold and the whole poultry industry sneezed and the nation is still recovering from the effects.
Just to put it into perspective, because of that outbreak at Irvine’s farm and the security measures that followed, there was a serious shortage of chicks with broiler farmers allowed to order very limited quantities and with waiting periods of up to a month before the chicks are delivered.
The downstream effects were that poultry feed suppliers could not sell their usual volumes, drug suppliers could not sell their usual quantities, restaurants and other eating houses could not get chickens for their menu, boarding schools and other institutions which rear broilers to feed their students suddenly found themselves unable to do that and they had to make drastic changes to their diets with serious budgetary implications.
The bottom line is that there were many players within the value chain that were affected by that outbreak.
These could be input suppliers, processors, wholesalers, retailers right to the consumers. It takes a very long time and huge amount of resources for a country to recover from such a shock. It is with that in mind that I implore the powers that be to take serious measures to prevent the avian influenza from crossing the Limpopo river into our country because the economic consequences of such an occurrence are too dire to even contemplate especially to a poultry industry which is barely out of the woods from the last outbreak.
I would therefore, be very happy to find all bio-security measures in full swing around the Beitbridge area to indicate that we are really on high alert.
It should not just end with issuing a Press statement but real preventative action on the ground to protect our poultry industry.
On a separate note, I would like to congratulate the farmers who became the pioneer beneficiaries of the Command Livestock initiative.
A total of 200 beasts were handed out to beneficiaries from Matabeleland region during the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair by Vice-President General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired). It is very important that this time we are celebrating the actual product of Command Livestock as opposed to celebrating the idea like we have done before.
I know for a fact that there are many more people who wish to benefit from this scheme as I am always inundated with enquiries from farmers who want to know a thing or two about the programme. We therefore, plead with the pioneer beneficiaries to do extremely well under this programme so that it can be escalated and replicated to other areas. If the pioneers perform poorly, the programme will die at the pilot phase.
It is without doubt that it was the exceptional performance of the first phases of Command Agriculture which resulted in the approach being adopted to cover many other areas of agriculture including aquaculture.
However, it is also important to note that the handing out of the reported 200 heifers is just but one of the many components of Command Livestock and hence we hope that all the other facets of Command Livestock such as breed improvement and fodder production will also be addressed.
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