The introduction of command farming in livestock production could rekindle hope of reviving the lucrative beef exports for Zimbabwe and earn the country the much needed foreign currency.

Zimbabwean beef, which used to have a huge quota on the European Union (EU) market, remains on high demand in that part of the world and other regions such as Asia, China and the Middle East.

Interviews with beef dealers and livestock production specialists in Harare revealed that producers need to increase productivity and meet the required international hygienic standards, while ensuring competitiveness.

It was also noted that farmers need to change mind sets of rearing livestock as a business and cast away the mentality of owning large heads for prestige.

The Principal Director in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services, Dr Ushewekunze said the introduction of command agriculture in livestock production should not be business as usual where beneficiaries borrow and disappear without repaying the government but ensure that they sell and pay back to ensure that the programme benefits more people.

Zimbabwean beef and other livestock products are on high demand the world over due to the continued use of natural feed unlike in other parts of the world where genetically modified foods are dominating the food sector.

A meat suppler in the light industrial area of Harare, John Mupfurutsa said there is need to ensure that farmers produce enough produce for the satisfaction of both local and overseas markets.

With the necessary support, education on livestock production as well as farmer support services, Zimbabwe could regain its position in the supply of beef and other small livestock to the international market and earn the much needed foreign currency.

Meanwhile, recurrent droughts, frequent disease outbreaks and poor management of livestock by farmers have been cited as the major contributing factors to the depletion of cattle in the country especially in Matabeleland provinces.

Matabeleland South Provincial Chief Livestock Specialist, Ms Simingaliphi Ngwabi said the province has lost a herd of 15 000 cattle since 2015 due to the effects of climate change.

She noted that there has been an increase of exotic breeds in the province  which cannot withstand the climatic conditions.

Local concerns

Livestock farmers in Marondera believe the introduction of livestock command farming will revive the Cold Storage Company and also remove price distortions caused by private abattoirs.

The farmers also appealed to the government to adhere to the policy of maximum farm sizes to accommodate livestock farming.

Marondera Central legislator, Cde Lawrence Katsiru said there are many benefits to the marondera community if the CSC is reopened as a result of command livestock farming.

At its peak, CSC Marondera Abattoir had the capacity to slaughter 500 cattle per day, employing more than 700 permanent workers in addition to contract workers and was also the single largest consumer of water from Marondera and electricity from ZESA.