Poultry farmers lobbied government to impose a ban on imported meat claiming that the meat was produced from genetically modified methods, currently outlawed in this country.
Government in April responded to the calls by introducing a three-month protectionist policy barring imported chickens.
ZPA chairman Solomon Zawe this week said the policy was good for the local industry which until the ban was facing serious competition from relatively cheaper imports mainly from South Africa and Brazil.
Imported chickens cost as low as US$5 for a 2kg bird while local producers demand as much as US$7 for the same bird.
“Shortages are in the short term and resulted from a high demand that came after the ban. We, however, expect more than 600 000 day old chicks in the coming week or two. This ban gave us confidence although some of our members were not fully geared to meet the high demand at the time of the ban. We now have the capacity and our abattoirs are producing an average of 40 000 birds per week,” Zawe said.
He blamed some retailers for putting “unrealistic mark-ups” saying the average producer price for a chicken per kilogramme is between US$2, 16 and US$3.
Zawe added that some producers are improving capacity following a scaling down of operations during the hyperinflationary period of 2008 when stock feed supplies were erratic.
On the contrary, a group identified as Concerned Chicken Producers have pressed the panic button, saying Zimbabwe could be on the brink of a protein deficit. The group also says the ban on imports would result in high cost of locally-bred birds.
“Animal protein availability in Zimbabwe is now approaching crucially low volumes,” the group said. “Not only have retail prices risen in the absence of competition, but chicken meat is becoming short and, as expected, a small illicit market in imports has sprung up. Despite an apparent seasonal decline in off take, Zimbabwe’s chicken producers are now far off the mark in servicing demand. Estimates out of the industry would suggest production levels are currently averaging 1,900 tonnes per month versus consumer demand of near 3,500 tonnes per month in the formal market.”
“If the GMO card is played across the spectrum of all foods and it was possible to police this, the reality is that Zimbabwe’s supermarket shelves would be empty once more,” it said. — Staff Writer.