A key focus of the policy is to benefit 1.6 million household livestock farmers, who would, for example, be supplied with 500g of tick grease, one litre of de-wormer solution and 500ml of wound medicine.
Around 90% of the country’s 5.4 million cattle population is owned by struggling smallholder farmers, a direct result of the country’s controversial land reform programme that changed the landscape of the livestock sector.
Communal farmers often manage their small herds of cattle poorly, leading to the production of low-grade beef. However, industry experts have expressed concern over how the money will be distributed, noting that government support often ends up in the wrong hands.
Beef and Poultry Association president and prominent beef producer Solomon Zawe urged the government to take care that the scheme is directed at producers willing and able to improve their systems.
"The livestock support scheme is a good idea. Provided it goes to the right hands, the livestock scheme will definitely go a long way in improving the quality of beef in the country. The greatest challenge we face in our industry is finance as we need to re-stock, people also need finance for supplementary feeds so that we have healthy livestock that will provide high quality beef. The other challenge we face is training. Everyone is now a farmer, so no one is willing to teach the next man. We should therefore draw a line and decide who is who," he told GlobalMeatNews.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) livestock chairman Allister Banks urged the government to employ a transparent distribution strategy that takes the support to targeted farmers.
"The scheme is a positive gesture, especially given the liquidity crunch that is prevailing in our economy. However, we are concerned with the allocation of the facility, we hope it will be distributed to the right people. If the support goes to communal farmers, it will positively impact the quality of beef we produce at the end of the day," he said.
Banks further called on the government to do more for smallholder farmers by providing mechanisation and genetics services as a way of improving the quality and productivity of their cattle.
According to the government’s Department of Livestock Production and Development (DLPD), the average calving rate currently stands at 49%, which is far below the optimum rate of 80%. The department notes that the condition of livestock continues to deteriorate, especially in the communal and small scale farming areas where grazing availability and condition is poor due to overgrazing.
Grazing availability in communal areas was adversely compromised by the land reform programme as some smallholder farmers settled in fertile grazing lands and turned them into maize and tobacco fields. DLPD figures show that Zimbabwe slaughters an average of 260 000 cattle on an annual basis. Industry experts have therefore called on government to concentrate more on the quality of the livestock and not the quantity as there is shortage of grazing lands.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made has stressed that there is strong export demand for Zimbabwean beef, in southern Africa and beyond.