It is no secret that every farmer would eventually want to sell his/her stock to redeem the value of the stock.
This is usually the problematic section of the livestock value chains and unfortunately it is an area which even the extension service does not pay much attention to.
Consequently farmers are always faced with a conundrum in so far as it relates to livestock marketing as some areas have poorly patronised livestock auction sales while others do not have auction sales at all.
I have stated before that some provinces such as Matabeleland North have no abattoir at all except for those that are in the peripheries of Bulawayo.
Hwange district is one sorry district where there are no livestock auctions and the nearest abattoirs are 400 kilometres away.
This means farmers is such situations which I suspect obtains in some provinces as well, are left to be mauled by ruthless speculators who are commonly referred to as middlemen.
Therefore, the thrust of this article is to implore powers that be to have a relook at the livestock marketing models so as to address this perennial challenge being faced by farmers.
I am aware that there was a shift in Government policy or approach regarding livestock auctions where centralised auctions were abolished in favour of the decentralised ones.
This was purely for disease control with very little to do with addressing marketing challenges that farmers are facing.
It is against this background that I would like to reiterate the serious need for a review of livestock marketing models to address this gap.
It is high time the country moves away from a generic approach to livestock marketing which may not be applicable to other areas because of their peculiar situation.
It is about time we have customised livestock marketing strategies and methods that takes note of peculiarities of the various districts in the country. Some districts are probably difficult to hold livestock auctions due to issues such as distance. Gavu sale pen in Hwange district is probably 400 kilometres from Bulawayo and this is not a small distance for buyers to travel for a sale. It is obviously not easy to gather say six buyers to go that far and bid for livestock. This may even be exacerbated by poor yarding in some of these pens as you may find less than 15 animals being presented for a sale.
The important question to answer therefore is what are methods of livestock marketing should districts in such situations adopt which may be favourable to both buyers and farmers, especially farmers? This is the question which Government departments responsible for livestock production as well as local authorities should be seized with. Smallholder farmers look up to these institutions and bodies to provide solutions and answers to their challenges and we must do just that. It is pointless to preach to farmers about good animal husbandry practices, proper animal health management and related production cardinals without addressing the exit point. I may not have all the answers but I certainly know the questions and all the stakeholders in the livestock sector should work together to find answers to the questions. If it means that extension messages should change towards encouraging farmers to aggregate their animals and transport them to ready market centres such as abattoirs, so be it.
Relevant bodies such as farmers’ unions should initiate dialogue with critical players in the livestock industry on how to address the livestock marketing challenges.
On that note I would like to salute authorities in Hwange District especially the livestock production department for championing an indaba aimed at finding solutions to the livestock marketing challenge in the district. This pen wishes all the stakeholders who are going to attend the indaba a fruitful deliberation and honestly hope that the discussion will go a long way in assisting livestock farmers.
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