The Sunday News
IN the past few weeks, we have read sad stock theft stories across the country. Stock theft is a vice which has been going on since time immemorial but it never ceases to make my blood boil because of the kind of losses that livestock farmers incur to this cruel vice being perpetrated by callous and unscrupulous members of our society.
Sadly, despite a significantly harsh jail sentence that it attracts, stock thieves have not been deterred, in fact the practice seems to be spreading, which baffles the mind because if such punitive sentences that go with the offence are not deterrent enough, what is?
Traditionally commercial stock theft has always been limited to cattle but a story which was carried by one of our sister publications in recent weeks seemed to indicate a new paradigm in this vice. The story was about the busting of a stock theft racket in Beitbridge area which led to the recovery about 150 goats. The racket allegedly involved a local businesswoman who is on the run.
The goats were destined for the neighbouring South African market which is said to be lucrative. The level of planning involved around this particular case and the numbers involved suggests the existence of an insatiable demand for goat meat in our neighbouring country especially the Limpopo Province where the meat was destined to.
I am also informed that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to buy goats even for breeding purposes especially around Gwanda and Beitbridge areas. Farmers in these areas are said to be selling at premium prices because they have tapped into the lucrative neighbouring market.
It is said goat farmers in those areas are opting to hoof their animals across the border and sell to the neighbouring farmers who are said to be very much in need of the big framed Matabele goats for crossing with such breeds as Boer goats. The resultant crosses are what we then buy from some of these farmers as improved breeds.
The import of this article is not to examine the legal merits or not for hoofing goats across national boundaries for sale. The aim is to once again interrogate our own goat value chain especially the marketing aspect. It is almost a mystery why the goat market has failed to structure itself beyond funerals and weddings.
Despite its well documented superior nutritional benefits goat meat remains not readily available in most meat retail outlets such as butcheries and supermarkets.
Matabeleland South, especially Gwanda and Beitbridge districts are the cradle of goat production in the country. This is where it is a perfectly usual occurrence to find one person owning more than 300 goats and of huge frames.
With such a huge production base of the goat value chain one struggles to understand why the market has largely remained villagised and only two active urban outlets which ambush funerals, weddings and ritual customers.
Am talking of the Kumbudzi market in Harare and the Kelvin one in Bulawayo. What do we need to do to develop the goat market to such levels as the one that tempted the Beitbridge thieves to steal 150 goats and try to slaughter and smuggle them across the border.
If a person can steal and slaughter that number of goats it means he or she has identified a market big enough to absorb that number at once because you don’t want to be driving around a truck load of smuggled carcasses in a foreign country.
Why are we not having such a demand of goats in our country? I know that some will tell you the market of goats is insatiable even in our own country but what baffles my mind is that it is a rare occurrence to meet a truck carrying goats to the market but you will not drive in any direction in this country and fail to meet a truck ferrying cattle to the abattoir.
What exactly are we missing with the marketing side of the goat value chain? We need to have this conversation so that we rectify what needs to be done or else we drive this value chain to the ground. A value chain can not rely on villagers selling among themselves, its not sustainable.
So, if the Gwanda and Beitbridge communities had not established this not so legal neighbouring market, they will be at some point burdened with huge flocks of goats which they would be failing to sell. Something definitely needs to be done to better structure the goat market and ensure perpetuity of this value chain.
Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo. Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist and farmer. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback [email protected]/cell 0772851275.