The Botswana government has extended its export deal of live cattle to Zimbabwe for an indefinite period.

The meat deal which was signed between the two governments has so far seen 6000 beasts since March this year heading for the Zimbabwe’s slaughter facility in Bulawayo.

“An agreement was signed last year August to export live cattle from Ngamiland for slaughter at Cold Storage Company (CSC) of Zimbabwe.

The target is to sell about 100 000 live animals from Ngamiland in order to reduce that area’s stocking levels’, disclosed the public relations officer of Ministry of Agriculture, (MoA) Geoff rey Pheko.

Since the Botswana stopped exporting beef to the European Union due to continuous outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD), Zimbabwe among other African countries seized the opportunity to buy live cattle from Botswana.

In response to a questionnaire the ministry of Agriculture official revealed that the move was expected to reduce the stocking levels in the FMD infected Ngamiland which is critically strained.

“We decided to sell live cattle to Zimbabwe from that region in order to foster sustainable rangeland utilisation.

“Also it will benefit the farmers economically who have not being selling their cattle for a long time.

“The whole idea of the deal is to reduce the stocking levels in Ngamiland, which have exceeded the stocking levels of that region, currently the cattle population in that area is around 400 000”, continued the MoA spokesperson Pheko. Ngamiland’s capacity is between 200 000 and 250 000 cattle.

Pheko said the Botswana Meat Commission was responsible for purchasing only overgrown cattle from the cash strapped farmers at P8/per kg live weight before selling to CSC.

He, however, refuted allegations that the two countries were also involved in joint breeding exercises.

“It is not true there is a joint cattle breeding agreement with Zimbabwe, however, exchange of experience is a given in areas such as animal welfare issues”, he said.

“This deal is expected to translate into several millions and will improve the livelihood of impoverished Ngami farmers.

“Cattle play a very important role in our lives and failure to sell poses negative economic

challenges to farmers and also put pressure on the environment.

“By fi nding a market for such cattle, the citizens of this country will be able to have some returns on their investment.

“It will also foster sustainable rangeland utilisation”, emphasized Pheko.

However, other countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo have also expressed interest in buying cattle from areas such as Ngamiland.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made has welcomed the extension of the deal as a part of the long term strategy with Botswana on cattle production.

Last year Botswana saw itself export more than 30 000 cattle from Zone VI to its northern neighbour for slaughter and resale.

CSC’s state of the art abattoir in Bulawayo is among the best slaughtering plants in sub Sahara Africa which before the country’s hyper-infl ationary period had a slaughtering capacity of  600 000 cattle per year.

The slaughter house which had been redundant for a long time due to a shortage of slaughter stock, largely caused by competition from private abattoirs, has had its fortune’s turned around.

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