Drought forces desperate farmers to sell livestock ‘for a song’ – Fewsnet

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MOST farmers in communal and resettled areas are being forced to sell their livestock at give away prices due to a devastating drought that has left cattle starving to death.

According to the latest update from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), Zimbabwe’s national herd is once again depleting rapidly.

“Livestock body conditions across parts of the region are deteriorating due to limited pasture and water availability,” the US-based organisation said this week.

“Livestock deaths have been reported and are expected to increase until the start of rains in November when pastures start to regenerate.”

Fewsnet said household incomes from livestock sales were also expected to decrease due to poor body conditions and desperate sales as hunger wreaks havoc across the country.  Most farmers have exhausted their harvest for this year due to poor rains and unfavourable producer prices they received after selling their produce.

“In many areas of the region, households are increasingly reliant on market purchases for food; however, market prices are above average,” the hunger watcher said.

Zimbabwe’s current cattle herd stands at five million.

The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Livestock Trade Union, Sifiso Sibanda confirmed the poor state of the national herd and said cattle deaths had gone up in the past few weeks with Matabeleland South province being the worst affected.

“It is a national disaster.  We have a situation were cattle are dropping like flies. The government is doing nothing to help the farmers. After this season farmers will be left impoverished and they won’t be able to recover,” Sibanda said.

However, the price of beef on the market continues to increase with a kilogramme of the cheapest grade of meat currently selling about $100/kg, which is beyond the reach of the majority of consumers.