The Sunday Mail
Discussions on export opportunities in agriculture often focus on traditional export products such as tobacco and peas, as well as emerging crops such as blueberries and macadamia nuts.
While these are usually top earners, the capital needed for meaningful production is often high, especially for smallholder and rural farmers who make up the majority of farmers countrywide.
For farmers seeking to participate in the mainstream export business, there are inherent opportunities in local communities that can be commercialised.
This will not only provide export options for smallholder and rural farmers, but also integrate them in mainstream economic activities, thereby help ensure that no one and no place is left behind in line with the Second Republic’s thrust.
Traditionally, there are products and livestock that can be easily produced at a relatively lower cost under local conditions.
Experts say goats and sheep can withstand drought much better than cattle, and can survive on shrubs, making them a relatively better choice than other livestock.
While most households keep goats and sheep for their own consumption, there is scope to increase breeders who raise these animals specifically for export.
Demand for goat and sheep meat is growing exponentially, making it difficult for local producers to fulfil orders.
To address the challenge, President Mnangagwa has since launched the nationwide rural goat scheme, which will see vulnerable groups, youths and women in rural communities receive goats for free.
However, they will be expected to pass on to other beneficiaries when the animals give birth.
The US$87 million Presidential Rural Goat Scheme will benefit over three million households and increase the goat population around the country.
There is already a ready market for Zimbabwe-produced goat and sheep meat in international markets, as confirmed at the recent Dubai Inward Buyers’ Mission organised by ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organisation.
During the business-to-business engagements between local farmers and buyers from Dubai, goat and sheep meat was one of the biggest areas of interest.
Some organisations have already committed to work with private players to get Halal certification, which is a requirement when exporting meat and other food products to the United Arab Emirates.
What is important now is to identify supply gaps that local farmers can plug, as well as find sustainable solutions that will make it easy for smallholder and rural farmers to consolidate and grow their capacity. Global opportunities
Goats and sheep are consumed across the world
Unlike other products like beef and pork, they play a unique role in traditional events and religious gatherings.
Data from Trade Map shows that goat and sheep meat imports have been growing over the past five years, from US$6,9 billion in 2017 to US$8,6 billion in 2021.
Currently, the largest importers are China (US$2,4 billion), the United States of America (US$1,4 billion), France (US$893 million), the United Kingdom (US$368 million), Germany (US$323 million) and the United Arab Emirates (US$322 million).
Countries such as China and the United Kingdom already enjoy good trade relations with Zimbabwe, as they import products such as tobacco and horticulture produce.
Zimbabwean farmers can use existing supply routes to introduce locally produced goat and sheep meat into the markets.
There are also opportunities to supply live animals.
The global import value of live goats and sheep stood at US$1,4 billion in 2021, of which the major importers were Saudi Arabia (US$494 million), Jordan (US$167 million), Kuwait (US$89,5 million) and Italy (US$63 million).
There is need to ensure that farmers can access these markets.
As the Presidential Rural Goat Scheme takes off, there is need for communities to look beyond the livestock as sources of meat for household consumption but a viable export product.
According to the First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report 2020/2021, the local goat population grew from around 3,9 million in the 2019/2020 season to almost four million in the 2020/2021 season.
During the same period, the total population of sheep rose from 548 000 to around 700 000.
Commercialising the sub-sector will help increase production and address challenges associated with mortality, including losses to predators and theft.
Farmers need to adopt better animal husbandry practices, consider hybrids and treat goat and sheep rearing as a business.
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of farmers considering breeds such as Boer, which are touted to have fast growth rates and are good for meat production.
There is need for farmers to organise themselves so that they consolidate and meet required numbers.
Smallholder farmers are usually the top breeders of goats.
Export-favoured breeding techniques and standards also have to be introduced.
As current production is lower than demand, it may be difficult for a single farmer to sustain demand over longer periods.
However, it is encouraging that a few associations have been formed to share ideas.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s CEO.