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Take advantage of beef cut

BANNING the importation of livestock and meat products from South Africa is without doubt a very significant decision by Government as this protects the health and lives of Zambians and other residents in the country.
The ban is a health safeguard which not only borders on protecting the health of consumers in Zambia but also prevents the possible spread of the disease in the country.
This proactive action is good and although it could inconvenience some people and institutions, the pros by far out-weigh the cons.
Besides, South Africa is not the only country from which Zambia can import livestock and meat products.
The availability of livestock and meat products is without doubt assured despite the ban of South African products where there is an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in that country’s Limpopo Province.
Zambia’s modern trade and retail sector as a whole has been growing as evidenced by the new malls being set up all over the country.
The shopping malls are a perfect example of the growing retail sector, which is helping harness the livestock and meat products sector.
In the unlikely event that the country will experience a deficit, supermarkets will not be short of options from where to get the meat products within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Botswana, for instance, has lots of beef which could get onto shelves of supermarkets in Zambia.
Furthermore, Zambia has a rapidly growing poultry sector which produces large quantities of poultry products that can provide an alternative for beef.
Similarly, the pig industry is booming locally. Herein lies another alternative for beef.
That aside, the ban actually could be a blessing in disguise. The beef sector has been presented with an opportunity to grow in quantity and quality.
The opportunities are not just to rear livestock and produce livestock products, but to also add value to the products. These opportunities include value addition such as processing, production of feed, veterinary services and transportation services.
Although this is already being done, the opportunity is to grow by filling the void caused by the ban.
It is not known how long the ban will last, but whatever the period, there is a window of opportunity in place.
With multiple players in the value chain that stand to benefit from this scenario, the opportunity should be seized. Even if it takes just a few days or weeks to re-admit the imported products, eyes have been opened to the fact that Zambia is importing products that can, or must, be produced locally.
That is why Government should be commended for the political will it has shown by ensuring that agricultural diversification succeeds.
To grow the livestock sector, Government created a stand-alone Ministry to be in charge of livestock and aquaculture.
The farmers must take advantage of Government’s initiatives to boost livestock and aquaculture production in Zambia.
Our farmers – both crops and livestock – should always stick to best practices so that when such opportunities of supplying to supermarkets arise, they will not be found wanting.
Our farmers need time to invest in additional capacities to meet the supply demands for the market.
Apart from satisfying local demand, the foot-and-mouth disease, which has broken out in Limpopo Province means that South African beef will be off shelves and out of fridges in several SADC countries and beyond.
This is where Zambia stands to benefit by exporting to countries which are likely to experience deficits and will be on the lookout for alternative markets.
Some of Zambia’s companies, such as Zambeef, which has continued to excel and get better with time, have already demonstrated the capacity to satisfy the local market given their footprint in the country.
Other companies and individuals can, or should, also prove their worth.