Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has availed $6 million to the agriculture development bank, Agribank, to be used for the revival of the country’s wobbly livestock industry.
Dubbed The Livestock Facility, the funds are expected to be accessed by qualifying livestock farmers across the country.
On Tuesday, Agribank chief executive officer Sam Malaba said the $6 million was released to the bank last month, and a process of marketing the fund had begun in earnest across the country.
“The bank has received an RTGS$6 million livestock facility from the shareholder which is earmarked for restocking and growth of the country’s livestock sector,” said Mr Malaba.
“The livestock facility was given to us I think just over a month ago. So, basically we have started marketing it through our branches and through the press and I can’t give you the quantum yet of what has been approved.
“But basically there is significant interest within the farming community.”
Mr Malaba said the $6 million facility was welcome as the livestock sector had “not received as much support as the other crops”.
The livestock facility has a tenure of between three and five years, which basically falls within the category of medium-term funding required by the sector.
Experts have previously called on the private financial sector to team up with Government and cobble commercially viable and well-structured livestock financing facilities, particularly to boost the breeding of quality beef and dairy cattle.
While there is about 150 licensed livestock abattoirs in the country with a combined commercial slaughter capacity of over 500 000 cattle per year, there is a shortage of beef cattle due to lack of funding.
It is believed that the challenge could be resolved if Government and the private sector worked together in structuring commercially viable projects.
The funds allocated by Government to revive the livestock industry would be used to purchase quality breeding beef and dairy cattle as well as supplementary infrastructure for commercial livestock production.
Experts believe that the addition of 300 000 quality breeding beef cattle and 100 000 quality dairy cattle to the industry in the next five years would boost the commercial supply of quality beef and quality hides by 150 000 head (13 500 tonnes export quality beef, 3 750 tonnes of export quality raw bovine hides).
In June last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Command Livestock programme in Gwanda and handed over 660 heifers to 151 beneficiaries from Matabeleland South’s seven districts.
The heifers comprised mostly of Brahman, Brano and cross Brahman breeds and are part of the 1 660 herd allocated to the province under the scheme.
The programme covers piggery, fisheries, ruminants and poultry, among others. Livestock experts say while the Command Livestock Programme was long overdue, it strong private financial sector support to ensure commercial sustainability.
The country slaughters about 270 000 cattle for the commercial beef market every year.
Agribank continues to support agriculture in tandem with its mandate and has concluded some offshore lines of credit to support the sector and its value chain.
Last year, Agribank secured US$10 million from the Afreximbank which would be channelled towards capacitating agricultural exporters and value addition.
The bank also got RTGS$20 million from Afreximbank for agriculture last year.