|Livestock markets - By Muhle M Masuku|
|Monday, 09 July 2012 15:15|
Trade Measures Department dumps farmersAT a meeting organised by the Matabeleland Agricultural Business Chamber (MABC) at the Cold storage Company’s Bulawayo branch recently, regional and district chairpersons of farmers’ unions met with abattoir representatives and other service providers to discuss industry and regulatory constraints affecting competitiveness at all levels of the beef value chain.
It immerged that the Department of Trade Measures has three inspectors in the whole of Matabeleland hence they cannot ensure the use of properly calibrated scales in the region. A representative of the department, Priscilla Changau, said police inspectorate could no longer verify if a particular scale had been properly calibrated because they are not qualified to do so. Sergeant Dube from the police inspectorate reiterated the same.
Abattoirs can adjust scales to read one kilogramme when in actual fact it should be three hundred grammes more. If that happens to a full carcass or all the carcasses in a truck load, the farmer loses a lot of money. This may happen for more than two years before a Trade Measures inspector finally comes, and probably escape with just a warning. Imagine how much money the abattoir will have made.
Consumers have a problem as well; they may actually buy eight hundred grammes assuming it is a kilogramme.
The Consumer Council ought to take this up with the department because consumers could be losing the hard earned dollar to dishonest businesspeople.
The issue of the weight belt was discussed and the inspector said it is illegal to use it because it is entirely dependant on the person using it and two different people may not come out with the same weight reading. It was also highlighted that weight belts are manufactured by different companies and produce different weights. If police can check if motorists have Zinara discs, or insurance discs, it is possible for them to check if scales have been properly calibrated by merely looking at an unbroken seal bearing the scale’s serial number. That can sound simplistic, but the bottom line is that something must be done to protect the farmers on one hand and consumers on the other.
Farmers left the meeting disappointed because their belief that outside forces have control over their destiny was confirmed. Oppressed people become passive because they believe that their efforts have no impact on the situation they are facing.
According to Myers (2002), learned helplessness is the feeling of hopelessness and resignation learned when a human or animal perceives no control over repeated bad events. Farmers know that weights are being tempered with, and the Government is doing nothing to protect them.
Many butcheries have the second scale at the till point just to ensure that the “correct” weight is charged. The same butchery owner pretends as if the weight of an animal is not very important when buying at the farm gate or auction sales.
Farmers are getting sick from depression, and that they say, causes the paralysis of the will, simply giving up and not reacting to anything anymore. How can farmers with such passive resignation be expected to feed the nation? We are becoming a net importer of everything simply because we are letting those seemingly small but very important things obstruct our own production capabilities.
I implore farmers’ unions to engage the Department of Trade Measures to come up with a reliable way of checking on scales in all abattoirs and auction sales to boost farmers’ confidence in the livestock marketing systems in this country. The Consumer Council should do the same to protect consumers from possible rip-off in all areas that require weights in order to buy something.
The police, as law enforcement agents in this country should be able to check on all suspicious activities without hindrance from those professionals who are building little kingdoms disguised as special skill areas and using technical jargon to deter them from doing their work. The impact of this irregularity is too much to contemplate.
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