Walter Mswazie, Masvingo Correspondent
THE Government has availed $440 million to livestock farmers under the Command Livestock Programme in a bid to boost the national herd and increase farmers’ earnings.
Cabinet recently approved a comprehensive special agricultural package amounting to $440 million for livestock, fisheries and wildlife production. About half of the funding package would be reserved for the beef and dairy sectors. The Government has said the package would have concessionary interest rates of less than four percent.
The programme would see the beef and dairy sectors being supported to the tune of $200 million, $42 million for the poultry farmers. Goat and sheep farmers would get $11 million and piggery $30 million.
Masvingo Beef Farmers Association provincial chairman Mr Robert Makado expressed optimism that the country would get foreign currency through exporting beef products.
He called on the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to allocate the money to livestock farmers according to their capacity.
“As farmers, we welcome such a good move by Government. Such an investment has been long overdue. The money should be disbursed as a matter of urgency,” said Mr Makado.
He said Masvingo farmers have the capacity to support the resuscitation of the Cold Storage Company (CSC) once they get the much needed financial support.
“With such support of $200 million, which is shared between beef and dairy farmers, we have the capacity to produce meat that sustains the market.
This will trigger Government’s interest to start exporting beef once more thereby raising the much needed foreign currency, which is in short supply at the moment,” said Mr Makado.
“Before exports were stopped because of Foot and Mouth Disease, the province used to slaughter 1 700 cattle per year and 10 000 calves were born.
This means we can sustain the Cold Storage Company that slaughters an average of between 350 to 500 beasts per day.”
He said the fund should be distributed according to the size of the herd per province with regions that have more cattle like Masvingo and Matabeleland South deserving more funding than others.
“We have some regions where cattle farming does not thrive due to climatic conditions. Although this funding will create interest from non-cattle provinces, provinces with many cattle should be given a priority. For example we have Masvingo and Matabeleland South, which are naturally cattle regions,” he said.
Masvingo has about 1,3 million cattle while the national herd stands at about five million. -@walterbmswazie3