By Arkangel Tembo
Blantyre, May 23, Mana: Government has urged farmers to take livestock production seriously on account that the sector has potential to contribute significantly to the growth of the country’s economy.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Francis Kasaila made the remarks on Thursday when he visited farmers and committees managing livestock in the twin Shire Valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje.
Kasaila said government is aware that most of the farmers have complained of low prices for their livestock largely due to lack of competitive buyers during market days as well as lack of support and value addition services to boost their returns.
However, Kasaila was quick to stress that the livestock sector can boost the country’s economy, encouraging farmers to take the sector seriously.
“We know that a few people are involved in buying of livestock in Shire Valley due to limitations on movement of animals from one region to the other resulting from some restrictions because of the foot and mouth diseases,” he said.
“This is creating problems in terms of prices as the current buyers are dictating prices. But l can assure you that government will work on addressing such problems so that farmers should be able to benefit from their livestock production,” added Kasaila.
Kasaila also encouraged farmers’ cooperatives and associations in the area to invest in facilities such as slaughter houses (abattoir) so that even in an event of an outbreak they should be able to slaughter the animals and take the beef to markets in cities.
One of the farmers engaged in livestock farming under Yadidi Cooperative, George Mankhwala –who owns Mankhwala Ranch – said agriculture, especially livestock production, remains a viable undertaking which can sustain households’ nutrition and incomes.
He said the market for meat and its products is huge; thereby, creating an opportunity for farmers to invest in the business and earn more income.
Mankhwala Ranch has 120 cattle, 295 goats, 281 chickens and owns 140 hectares of land.
The farmer, who ventured into livestock farming in 2013 urged fellow farmers to take animal farming seriously, saying the fruits from the enterprise are enormous.
Coordinator of Livestock Development Association in Shire Valley, a Mr. Anthuachino said farmers in the area are also experiencing other problems such as theft, illegal importation of livestock from Mozambique, decreased quality of market operations, erratic feed availability during lean months, diseases and exploitation from vendors.
Shire Valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje collectively have 174,762 livestock farming households raising goats in majority at 623,295 followed by cattle at 298,426 and sheep at 10,972. Shire Valley area provides meat to Blantyre City and its surrounding districts.