Forex crisis decimates 50 000 of Zimbabwe’s cattle

Zimbabwe needs to consider alternative ways of disease control

Zimbabwe has lost 50 000 cattle over the past year because it does not have foreign currency to import vaccines and dip chemicals, whose demand has grown as rising temperatures breed more disease.

More cattle are likely to die in 2019 due to a shortage of cattle dip, says Josphat Nyika, director of Livestock and Veterinary Services at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Between December 2017 and November this year, we have lost 50 000 cattle because there are no dipping chemicals. We have 4 000 dip tanks administered by the Veterinary Department countrywide but no dipping is happening there,” Nyika said.

The two local companies that manufacture cattle dip have to import the active ingredient, but they have been unable to secure foreign currency.

Industry players also say Zimbabwe already owes $3 million to the Botswana Institute of Vaccination, the region’s sole supplier of Foot and Mouth vaccination.

According to Government data, some 90% of the country’s herd of 5.5 million is owned by rural communities, where the loss of cattle is felt the hardest by impoverished farmers.

Apart from funding for vaccines and dip, Zimbabwe is also desperate for money to fence off swathes of farmland to prevent the movement of wildlife, especially buffalo, the primary carrier of the foot and mouth disease.

In his 2019 budget, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube allocates funding for fencing, chemical supply, research and rebuilding of damaged dip tanks.

Ncube has allocated $32 million to fund 1 595km of fence in Gonarezhou, Hwange, Gokwe, Kariba, Mbire and Mudzi areas. He is spending $8 million for construction of 80 km of fence along the Gonarezhou National Park as well as 281 km to the north-eastern side of the country, from Angwa River along the border to Gairezi River.

Zimbabwe was once a major beef exporter, but the country last exported beef in 2001 under its $2 billion export quota because it could no longer meet the EU’s strict disease control measures. The EU used to import 9100 tonnes of Zimbabwean beef every year in the 1990s, but disruption during land reform saw the contract collapse.

In December last year, the EU committed $30 million to Zimbabwe to help the country revive its beef industry. For exports to resume, however, an EU safety commission would have to certify Zimbabwe’s beef.

In the budget, Ncube allocated $2.4 million to rehabilitate 50 dip tanks in each province. Many such facilities have collapsed. Where dipping is still available, poor farmers are increasingly unable to pay for it. Dipping fees are $2 for each beast, but farmers also face other costs, such having to buy a $5 dipping card and paying herders and dippers.

Rising temperatures, due to global warming, are seeing a resurgence of tsetse fly in areas that it had been controlled, such as arid Mola and Gokwe North. The budget allocated for pest control there is $2 million.

Last year, science journal SciTechnol warned that global warming could be allowing some tick species to thrive in areas in which they previously could not survive.