ZIMBABWE is losing out on the lucrative European Union (EU) beef quota to South American producers because of its failure to come up with a workable solution to problems rocking the agricult
Beef industry sources said Zimbabwe’s 9 100-tonne annual quota was being met by Brazil, Argentina and Mexico because of its failure to eradicate the recurrent foot and mouth disease (FMD) in beef producing areas.
An EU spokesman confirmed that South American countries were servicing Zimbabwe’s quota since government has not taken any initiatives to have the 2001 ban lifted.
“Zimbabwe has not yet invited Brussels to come and assess whether Harare has implemented EU-recommended disease control measures that could see the ban lifted,” the spokesman said.
“It is Zimbabwe which is supposed to take the initiative, but so far they have not done so and the exports remain banned.”
He however said the quota remained available to Zimbabwe.
“Once it conforms to the EU standards, Zimbabwe can resume exports anytime. The quota does not change even if a country is not fulfilling it,” he said.
An expert said the chaos in the agricultural sector had resulted in the industry falling further away from meeting EU standards, particularly the system of identification, registration and labelling of bovine animals.
“The first requirement for all operators and organisations marketing fresh or frozen beef or veal is to label it with individual trace ability codes which may be the identification number of the animal from which the meat is derived or an identification number relating to a group of animals,” the expert said.
He said continued farm seizures and the destruction of equipment had resulted in producers failing to maintain slaughterhouses and de-boning plants up to export standards.
The situation has been exacerbated by the uncontrolled movement of cattle and wildlife, resulting in FMD outbreaks that caused the suspension of beef exports.
The Cattle Producers Association (CPA)’s latest report says FMD continued to recur over the past five years because of the uncontrolled movement of cattle.
“FMD continues to haunt us,” CPA chairperson, Maryna Erasmus, said.
“Veterinary services’ ability to source vaccines from Botswana is directly related to the availability of foreign currency to pay our debts and this has been a major problem.
“However, vaccination is not the total solution to FMD control and until the fundamental issue of illegal cattle movement is addressed, Zimbabwe will continue to see the recurrence of FMD.”
Before the ban, Zimbabwe was earning around US$38 million annually from beef exports to the European Union. This accounted for about 4% of the country’s total foreign currency earnings.
Besides the government’s apparent inaction over disease control, Zimbabwe’s herd has declined by a massive 82% from 1,4 million cattle before the land reforms to about 250 000 at present.