Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
LIVESTOCK players in Hwange District, Matabeleland North Province, have over the years been failing to grab a niche market which exist in their area due to unavailability of proper infrastructure and flawed marketing systems.
Hwange District, which is home to the coal-mining town of Hwange, Victoria Falls and Dete is a lucrative market for meat products due to the heavy presence of hospitality and catering industry players in the form of hotels and lodges, big retail grocery outlets as well as a number of mining concerns.
However, livestock players in the district have over the years failed to tap into this lucrative market due to unavailability of formalised cattle auction sales and registered abattoirs.
Speaking at a Livestock Indaba in Hwange on Thursday, Hwange District’s Department of Livestock Production and Development (DLPD) officer Mr Lungile Dlomo said the marketing of livestock in his area of jurisdiction was worrisome with farmers managing to sell a paltry 1 583 cattle to local butcheries last year accounting to only about three percent of the 53 185 cattle population in the district.
The workshop was organised by DLPD in conjunction with Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Programme and attracted livestock industry players across its value chain as well as livestock specialists from Matabeleland region.
“There has been no viable marketing of livestock in the district for quite some time and this is not only worrisome to players in the livestock industry but to the (Hwange) Rural District Council as well as it stands to benefit revenue from this industry,” he said.
The district has not conducted a cattle auction sale for more than two decades, the liquidity crunch and subsequently an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease affected CC Sales from conducting one last year.
“We do not have cattle sale points and those that are available have been lying idle for some time and need to be rehabilitated.
This has led to an upsurge of middlemen that are now preying on desperate farmers due to lack of a proper market. At the end farmers are more of price takers. The absence of any form of livestock auctions is really impacting negatively to the farmers.
We really need these auctions as they generate good prices for our farmers,” said Mr Dlomo.
He also said the long distance between Hwange and Bulawayo, where most potential buyers are located, makes it economically unviable for them to travel for cattle sales.
“The other challenge is the absence of an abattoir. We need these abattoirs so that our local players can supply the big retail shops we have in the district,” said Mr Dlomo.
The district’s butcheries are getting their meat suppliers directly from farmers, with the slaughtering being done under the supervision of the Department of Veterinary Services’ extension officer and a health inspector at recommended slaughter poles.
“By the time I came here I understand that Matetsi Abattoir was the only abattoir working here in Hwange but then it was closed. Since I was here we can’t talk about having proper slaughter poles, because it would be so unhygienic . . . ,” said Hwange district veterinary officer Dr Lovemore Dube.
He however, said plans are at an advanced stage for the opening of an abattoir at Madumabisa, about 20 kilometres outside Hwange’s Central Business District.
“The construction of an abattoir offers a ready market as any farmer can take his animal to that abattoir rather than wait for the next cattle sale. It also protects the farmer from what we might call unscrupulous buyers who might underpay the farmer.
It’s also an exciting development as the individual will have an opportunity to supply retail shops, safari operators and hotels around provided that the quality of the beasts slaughtered are what they want . . . any deficit then they can import the meat, therefore the farmer stands to benefit . . . ,” said Dr Dube.
The owner of the abattoir under construction, Mr Shepherd Katsidzira said the facility was nearing completion but its operation was likely to drag due unexplained regulatory issues.
“It’s (opening of the abattoir) long overdue because as we speak people are still slaughtering under trees . . . the veterinary was supposed to do a test run on the first week of this month but because of some glitches now it’s going to take longer . . . which is a big disadvantage for us as businesspeople because we are losing business, everything now is at a standstill and we don’t know how long it will take for us to be able to register,” said Mr Katsidzira.