VILLAGERS in Plumtree are reportedly being swindled by cattle buyers, who are offering as little as $270 per beast, as communal farmers rush to destock ahead of a looming drought.
BY SILAS NKALA
Former Bulilima East MP, Norman Mpofu, who was attending a cattle sale in Plumtree, said the situation was pathetic for many communal farmers, as their livestock was drastically losing value and commercial farmers and abattoir operators were taking advantage.
“Prices of cattle have drastically gone down here in Plumtree, and villagers are getting little money for them,” he said.
“Most of the cattle here are in bad shape and the villagers fear losing them to drought, as the weather is not promising. The crisis is double tragic, as the villagers fear losing their cattle to drought, at the same time they opt to benefit through selling their animals at very low prices.”
Mpofu said some buyers usually offered to buy cattle that were in really bad state for as little as 90c per kilogramme and the highest price was usually $1,50 per kilogramme, which was far less than the normal or expected price for a beast.
“This happens to people experiencing serious problems, as the South African rand depreciated, as 80% of Plumtree people work in South Africa,” he said. “The villagers are selling cattle to an already suffocated market, which has no money, as most of the civil servants, who would want to buy them have not yet been paid. Farmers and abattoirs operators refuse to buy cattle at reasonable prices, saying that even if they buy the cattle at good prices, who will buy the meat.
“Plumtree is a rand economy and people have no money, villagers are not keen to continue keeping their cattle due to the fear of losing them through drought,” Mpofu said. “The situation is too bad here, as there is no rain.”
Matabeleland South has been hard hit by drought again this year and there have been some isolated incidents of cattle deaths, raising fears that a devastating drought, like the one which ravaged the province during the 2012-2013 agricultural season and left over 9 000 cattle dead, could recur.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union national livestock chairperson, Irene Maphenduka, recently told the media that the condition of cattle in the two rural provinces of Matabeleland South and North — was no longer tenable.
Matabeleland South livestock specialist, Simangaliphi Ngwabi, recently said, in addition to scarce pastures, water sources have depleted in the province, and that some livestock were already dying as a result.