HomeBusiness DigestMeat exports under threat

Meat exports under threat

Conrad Dube

ZIMBABWEAN meat exports could be reduced next year as the Veterinary Technical Services Department (VTSD), which inspects processing facilities for food of animal origin, has

been incapacitated by lack of funding. The department is responsible for the inspection of packaging and processing plants countrywide.

The department audits health compliance of beef, poultry and pork abattoirs and canning factories where meat products for the domestic market and exports are made.

The director of the department, Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu, said they had requested $77 billion under the current fiscal vote but only got an allocation of $28 billion.

“We have to respond to international standard requirements, as articulated in the World Trade Organisation, World Health Organisation and World Organisation for Animal Health protocols to which we are signatory,” Ushewokunze-Obatolu said.

“If we do not meet these requirements, countries we hope to export to will reject our products because every consignment must show that processing and packaging plants are regularly inspected,” she added.

Ushewokunze-Obatolu said the department was not only expected to inspect export processing facilities of beef, pork and poultry products, but crocodile, fish and ostrich plants too.

The department is required to also inspect these facilities before it registers new entrants or re-registers old operators.

Staff are expected to travel extensively and make on-the-spot checks on processing facilities countrywide.

This is however not going to be possible due to the limited resources allocated to the department. The department needs vehicles to adequately carry out its duties but no provision was made for the purchase of vehicles.

“Our travel allocation of $600 million is not supported by the fuel bill.

Treasury did not release funds towards the acquisition of vehicles,” Ushewokunze-Obatolu said.

He expressed concern that the Finance ministry had seemingly used current prices of petroleum products to calculate VTSD allocations yet there had been serious fluctuations in the price of fuel products.

“If fuel prices increase, we could find ourselves unable to do inspections because the ministry used current prices to calculate allocations to the department,” she argued.

Lack of funds could severely hit the country’s beef exports, which have been on a slide in recent years along with declines in the national herd.

The country’s commercial head has plunged by 82% since four years ago from a peak of 1,4 million to 250 000.

Zimbabwe used to earn as much as $2 billion from its 9 100-tonne beef quota to the EU before the out-break of foot and mouth disease in 2001.

The VTSD’s training programmes have also been hit by reduced allocations at a time when experienced people are leaving the country in droves.

“VTSD is the research department in animal health of the Agriculture and Rural Development ministry and we are expected to carry out public health research. But if we are not well skilled, we cannot deliver,” Ushewokunze-Obatolu said.

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