Communal livestock farmers in Gwanda say they are being shortchanged by buyers and middlemen who are taking advantage of their desperation to buy their stock at uncompetitive prices.
The prevailing economic situation coupled with a devastating drought has left communal farmers in Matabeleland South with no choice but to take their animals to auction sales.
A visit by ZBC News to a cattle sale in Takaliawa, Gwanda south, revealed that more and more farmers are selling their livestock in order to buy supplementary feed and save remaining herds.
However, buyers and middleman are taking advantage of the desperation of farmers to purchase their stock for as low as RTGS$600.
Farmers said while they bear the cost of feeding and buying of inputs like dipping powders as well as vaccines in foreign currency or inflated RTGS dollar prices, their animals are being bought for a song.
“To be honest, we are really breeding our cattle for the buyer. They are offering very low prices and worse they are buying in RTGS dollars. Things are very expensive out there a 50kg bag of mealie-meal is going for over RTGS$100 while chemicals and vaccines are pegged in foreign currency. So, what we get after selling a beast is useless money,” said one of the farmers.
Local councillors pleaded with the government to ensure that prices in the rural areas and cattle sale pens are adjusted upwards considering inflation and the RTGS interbank exchange rates or pegged in foreign currency.
“We are appealing to the government to protect the farmers because the cattle are their main source of livelihood,” they [local councillors] said.
“The prices of cattle in Matabeleland South are at their lowest in over a century,”said Mr Nqobizitha Sibanda, an economic analyst while adding that the price of meat is selling at about RTGS$18 per kilogramme at supermarkets while farmers get an average of about RTGS$3 per kilogramme.
Mr Sibanda said the command livestock programme intended to empower rural communities in Zimbabwe is no longer doing so, but benefiting supermarkets and cattle buyers instead.
The farmers therefore seek urgent government intervention before they are plunged deeper into poverty.