By VENERANDA LANGA
AUDITOR General Mildred Chiri says Zimbabwe lost about 22 895 cattle between 2015 and 2018 due to various diseases, which cost the country about US$45 million every year in lost exports revenue.
This was revealed in Chiri’s 2018 report on the preparedness in the prevention and control of cattle diseases by the department of Veterinary Services, which was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday.
According to the report, the country reported 166 997 cases of diseases in the same period.
Chiri said the death of the cattle and disease outbreaks had resulted in Zimbabwe missing out on earnings of at least US$45 million per year from beef exports to the European Union.
“The diseases led to significant losses, which affected farmers, businesses and regions. It has resulted in Zimbabwe not being able to export beef, for example, to the European Union
since 2007,” Chiri said.
“The exports used to earn the country at least US$45 million per year in nominal prices, and cattle are an integral part of households in Zimbabwe as they are used for draught power
in food production and nutrition, hence the death of one ox is a big loss to the community and the nation at large,” she said.
The AG said review of the Veterinary Services Department (VSD) annual reports of 2015 to 2017 showed that 166 997 cases of various diseases in cattle were reported in the country
between 2015 and May 2018.
She said she noted shortcomings in the operations of the VSD that included inconsistencies in the implementation of foot-and-mouth disease prevention strategies.
“Interviews with veterinary officials revealed that the department was not carrying out regular foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccinations in risk zones as required,” Chiri said.
“The annual reports also indicated that FMD was spreading to provinces which were disease-free like Mashonaland East, parts of Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland Central.”
Other reasons for the spread of FMD were said to be non-availability of fence boundaries between farms as well as game parks to separate livestock and buffaloes, causing serious
outbreaks of FMD.
“Fences that used to restrict movement of buffaloes into cattle grazing areas were also not maintained and, in most cases, non-existent,” Chiri added.
“Regular annual vaccination programmes for anthrax were not being done in most of the districts that were visited during the audit.
“The department, as a fallback, was now focusing on hotspots and carrying out vaccinations as and when there was an outbreak in areas that surrounded the affected areas.”
Dipping chemicals were also said to be in short supply during the period 2015 to 2017 with the department only managing to distribute 49%, 36% and 56% in the years 2015, 2016 and 2017
respectively of the chemical, which was far below the requirements for dipping sessions.
“To supplement funds for the procurement of dipping chemicals, farmers are required to contribute $2 per animal per year as dipping fees,” the AG said.
“Analysis of revenue returns showed that dipping fees collections have been on a downward trend from 2015 to 2017.”
Chiri also said that her audit noted that 70% of dip tanks (2 637 out of 3 726 in the country) needed repairs for them to function properly.
“Of the 30 dip tanks that I inspected, I noted that 27 thereof were in a deplorable state and needed rehabilitation,” she said.
“The dip tanks did not have standard requirements such as roofs, races, and head clamps.”
On tsetse control, Chiri said the VSD said if eradication control measures are not adequately done, there is a risk that in the next 10 years the tsetse fly would spread to almost all
parts of the country.