Communal farmers warned against selling livestock as hunger bites

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By Mary Taruvinga

Agriculture minister, Anxious Masuka has warned communal farmers against selling their livestock amid the hunger crisis the country is currently facing.

The minister was responding to questions put to him by legislators during the Question and Answer session in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Masuka said the government has realised that farmers were “de-stocking”.

“In different places, we have observed that farmers are busy now de-stocking because they are worried about the quantities of the feed that they have, for instance in Matabeleland South, the cattle that were sold from January to February…we observed that the quantities have gone up by 43%.

“So, the majority are selling their cattle,” he said.

Masuka added, “As the relevant Ministry, we urge farmers to stop rushing to sell their livestock.  They should only sell those old oxen and cows.

“The heifers and other young cows, we should keep them in stock so that we can use artificial insemination to ensure that we have pastures for the calves so that they cannot sell their cattle”.

Shamva South Member of Parliament Joseph Mapiki had asked what measures the government has in place to ensure that there are cattle sales locally in light of the disease outbreak.

Spencer Tshuma  Gokwe-Kabuyuni MP had also asked what was being done considering that most communal farmers when faced with hunger sell their livestock for survival.

The lawmaker wanted to know what help they could get considering that livestock movement is banned in some areas.

Masuka said no one will starve.

“The Government has put in place, together with the Ministry headed by Minister July Moyo, a programme to ensure that all households countrywide are provided with adequate foodstuffs until next year.

“We only allow movement of livestock once the period of the ban has expired because if we allow this, we may fail to contain the disease,” he said.

Masuka said the government is currently trying to revive a programme under which market days will be published.

Such a program was formerly run by the Cold Storage Commission (CSC) but has since collapsed.

Masuka said the arrangement is now under the district councils.

“We are in the process of trying to revive such activities so that farmers can be able to buy and sell cattle.  We have allowed the Agricultural Marketing Authority to do that process.”

The minister said they have been to Zvishavane, hoping that this time they would go to Matabeleland South to try and revive such areas.