Unscrupulous businesspeople are fleecing Gokwe farmers by offering non-viable prices for cattle, justifying their actions by saying the area is prone to Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). This came out at a meeting held in the Defe Mutendi area of Gokwe on Wednesday. Gokwe provincial veterinary officer Dr Daniel Hove said the district had the highest number of cattle, but farmers in the area were not realising huge profits from the livestock as they were selling them at give away prices.
Dr Hove said most abattoir operators from areas across the country were coming to buy cattle from Gokwe and offering low prices.
“Gokwe North and Gokwe South farmers have around 300 000 cattle and this contributes greatly towards the economy,” he said.
“Farmers in the area should have been enjoying the fruits of their sweat, but the area is known to be affected by FMD and buyers are not willing to offer high prices.
“As long as the area remains at high risk of FMD, prices will remain low.”
Dr Hove said the abattoir operators sold the beef at higher prices after buying cattle at low prices.
He said FMD had a negative impact on the economy as it affected exports of beef and other related products.
“Farmers in Gokwe cannot move their cattle out of Gokwe to better markets because of the movement restrictions due to the disease,” said Dr Hove.
“The disease has been spreading in the area because of the mixing of livestock with wild animals due to vandalism of game fences. Sometimes farmers do not alert authorities early when there is an FMD outbreak and also they are not willing to have their livestock vaccinated even when it is for free.”
Dr Hove said his department was committed to eradicating the disease, but efforts were being hampered by lack of commitment from the affected farmers.
He said farmers should realise the value in the livestock and start prioritising the health of their animals.
Gokwe farmer Mr Clemence Kwirimba complained that some were people living in the safari park area and their infected cattle were spreading the disease.
“Why should we be blamed for the spread of the disease?” he said.
“We are also affected by the issue of low prices of all our agricultural products, including grain. What is the difference between our produce and those from other provinces? The Agricultural Marketing Authority should assist us on livestock prices. They appear to concentrate more on prices of grains.”
Zanu-PF National Consultative Assembly member, Cde Silas Mutendi, urged farmers to do away with the dependence syndrome of always looking up to Government for all resources.
He said farmers should play their role in FMD prevention by reporting outbreaks early and also dipping and vaccinating their animals.
“Farmers should also designate areas for pastures,” he said.
“Let us do our part as farmers and make use of the veterinary officers in our areas.”
Police National Anti-stock Theft Unit official Assistant Commissioner Panganayi Sande said Zimbabwe was losing out on foreign currency because of FMD.
“We have cattle, but we can not export because of the disease,” he said.
“The disease is also spread by the illegal movement of cattle. Farmers should also brand their cattle for easy traceability and identification purposes.”
The Department of Veterinary Services is holding numerous meetings with the Gokwe community to come up with a collective solution to the problem of FMD, which is prevalent in the area.