ZIMBABWEâ€™S declining national herd risks contracting tick borne disease due to government failure to dip the beasts for close to a year, a senior agriculture ministry official has said.
Acting agriculture permanent secretary Stuart Hargreaves made the remarks on Tuesday when senior ministry officials were invited to give oral evidence to a parliamentary committee overseeing the portfolio.
The Ministry of Agriculture said it was facing financial constraints to dip over two million cattle. Â
Other ministry officials who also spoke on behalf of the ministry said five parastatals in the agriculture ministry â€” Pig Industry Board, Grain Marketing Board, CSC, Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, Tobacco Research Board and the Agricultural Research Council â€” were also being hamstrung by lack funds and resources. The ministry was given US$48 million in the national budget for this year.
â€œWe havenâ€™t dipped cattle for almost a year because we are out of finances, itâ€™s a tragedy,â€ said Hargreaves.
Hargreaves, a veterinary surgeon leading the livestock and veterinary services in the ministry, also said the country had 62 out of a required 280 veterinarians to attend to livestock throughout the country.
â€œTo dip cattle on a fortnightly basis, it costs US$211 000 a month,â€ he said.
Hargreaves however said some communicable diseases such as anthrax and foot and mouth were â€œeliminatedâ€ in most Mashonaland provinces, adding that vaccinations had been facilitated through partnerships with donors.
The ministry, the parliamentary committee was told, needed US$58 000 in rentals for the Food and Agriculture Organisation sub-regional office at Tendeseka Park in Harare. Insurance giant Old Mutual owns the property.
Apart from urgent commitments to pay rentals, government requires US$500 000 to pay contract workers who were hired to plug the high staff turnover in the ministry. Hargreaves said the ministry was 8 000 short of the required 20 000 skilled personnel.
The finance chief also told the legislators that negotiations were at an â€œadvanced stageâ€ to secure lines of credit for the GMB, which now faces enormous competition in purchasing grain following the liberalisation of the market early this year.
The parastatals has promised to pay US$265, including import parity, for a tonne of maize while leading brewer Delta Beverages â€” according to the ministry officials â€” is paying US$185 cash for the same quantity.
GMB could again face stiff competition from grain imports currently lower than the gazetted import parity price.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made last week told parliament that GMB â€”now a buyer of last resort â€” was â€œreadyâ€ to purchase grain despite failing to disclose the source of the hard currency.
â€œIn terms of the payment that will be done by the GMB, government is in the process of mobilising resources for GMB to be able to pay farmers timeously,â€ he said. â€œThe GMB is not only looking at government resources, government in actual terms is facilitating resources and the financiers to work with the GMB in the form of granting the necessary grants that the banking sector require.â€
Turning to the ongoing winter wheat season, the ministry of agriculture officials said cereal output could decline this year due to the limited resources. Government is projecting 100 000 metric tonnes of wheat through sub-contracting and lines of credit.
BY BERNARD MPOFU