By Patricia Mashiri
Agriculture is Zimbabwe’s economic backbone and the beef sector is one of the critical cogs in the improvement of the livelihood of the rural populace.
Paddy Zhanda, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture underscored the importance of improving the quality and sales of beef at a study report meeting held by the Livestock Department in Harare on 21 August 2017.
“In Zimbabwe, agriculture is the backbone of the economy. It provides livelihoods to 80% of the population and accounts for 23% of formal employment. The future of Zimbabwe therefore lies in the development of a diversified, vibrant, competitive and efficient agricultural sector,” Zhanda said.
The beef sector has been specifically pointed out as the one which plays an important role as it contributes to the livelihoods of the people in rural areas.
“Specifically, the beef sector plays an invaluable role in Zimbabwe as it contributes to the livelihoods of our rural folk. The sector has a potential to contribute up to 80% of household income in natural regions three, four and five,” Zhanda said.
Beef farming is no longer based on massive individually owned ranching operations but is now anchored by small farmers with disintegrated operations.
Zhanda said there are changes in the patterns of meat retailing, cattle marketing and purchasing which require a lot of continuous reviews through studies to ensure balanced growth and market efficiency.
Competition through the markets has been raised as a common idea which helps markets to work efficiently.
“Competition helps markets to work efficiently and also ensures that the value attained is passed to all levels of the value chain. In this case of beef value chain, if the market is competitive and efficient it ensures that the farmers would get a fair value for their cattle while beef consumers get reasonable prices.
The study was regarded as one which was carried out at the right time as the government is striving to regain its once traditional beef exports markets as well as penetrate new markets.
The study shows that farmers needed to be educated on best cattle farming practices. There were calls to hold awareness campaigns on the benefit of coordination in sourcing requisite inputs into cattle fattening programmes and group marketing.