Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Zim runs out of cattle vaccine

BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe has run out of vaccines for the treatment of anthrax and foot-and-mouth diseases as a senior government veterinary official warned that an outbreak of the two deadly diseases that affect cattle could see the entire national herd wiped out.

The shortage of vaccines could also scuttle lucrative deals clinched last year to export beef export to Hong Kong, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola as most governments ban beef imports from countries affected by the especially contagious foot-and-mouth in order to protect domestic herds.

Zimbabwe lost a key beef export contract to the European Union in 2001 following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country.

“There is not even a single dose of vaccines and this is tragic for the country. If there are any outbreaks of diseases, then it will be a disaster,” said Josphat Nyika, a health expert at the government’s Department of Veterinary Services.

Nyika, who was speaking at a Monday meeting called by the state’s Cold Storage Commission meat processing company to discuss rebuilding the national herd, said Zimbabwe did not also have drugs to treat tick borne diseases.

Zimbabwe’s national herd has dramatically fallen from an estimated six million cattle in 2001 to four million chiefly because of the government’s chaotic and often violent programme to seize white-owned farms to give to blacks.

The farm seizures that President Robert Mugabe says were necessary to ensure blacks also had a share of arable land saw militant government supporters slaughter for meat whole herds, including special breeding cattle, left behind by fleeing white farmers.

Nyika called on Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono to avail hard cash to pay foreign manufacturers of livestock vaccines, adding that the critical shortage of vaccines wgas because there was no foreign currency to import them.

Zimbabwe was a major exporter of beef to the EU, delivering 9 100 tonnes of top quality meat to the European market every year and generating much needed foreign currency. - ZimOnline

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