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First Lady goes “shopping” for a dairy farm

Although dairy farmers had gone largely untouched during the farm invasions of 2000 to 2002, reports in November 2002 said the First Lady Grace Mugabe was one of the high profile people that had started scouting for a dairy farm.

According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks President Robert Mugabe had reportedly stated that dairy farms were of strategic importance but nobody had been able to corroborate where or when such a statement was made.

Dairy operations had therefore largely been unaffected though 187 of the 310 dairy farmers left in the country were operating under final acquisition notices.

The cable says due to the lack of centralized control, some individual farmers had been targeted by both renegade war vet groups and high-profile government supporters, some of whom attempted to seize the entire asset — dairy operations, dairy herd, equipment, and all.

“In one case, a farmer without a Section 8 notice was told by war vets on November 13 that he had 48 hours to vacate his dairy operation. The farmer desperately scrambled to sell his productive dairy herd to other dairy farmers, knowing that generations of breeding would be lost if the cattle were simply sent to slaughter.

“The farmer eventually learned that the farm was being claimed by Godfrey Chidyausiku, the GOZ-appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

“In another high-profile case, at least two dairy operators in the Mazowe area — approximately one hour outside of Harare — report that Grace Mugabe, the President’s wife, has made two or three visits to each of their farms. Their impression is that Mrs. Mugabe is ‘shopping’ for a farm which she will then claim,” the cable says.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE2701, LAND REFORM DECIMATES CATTLE INDUSTRIES

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE2701

2002-11-26 05:34

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 002701

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

PARIS FOR NEARY

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: EAGR ECON PHUM PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: LAND REFORM DECIMATES CATTLE INDUSTRIES

 

1. Summary. In addition to crop farmers, cattle farmers

have also succumbed to the pressures of the land reform

program. Currently, commercial dairy farmers represent half

of the remaining commercial farmers, while most commercial

farmers continue to raise some beef cattle in addition to

their primary operations. Although the number of dairy

operators has not decreased as dramatically as the numbers in

other farming sectors, the commercial dairy herd as well as

the large-scale commercial beef herd have seen drastically

reduced numbers due to widespread de-stocking in the past few

years. The impact of such reductions on Zimbabwe’s food

situation have already begun to be felt, in the form of

shortages and sharp price increases, and will only worsen

with time. There are new indications that the GOZ may soon

target dairy farms, which until now have been spared the

wholesale ravages of President Mugabe’s fast-track land

reform. End summary.

 

Dairy

—–

 

2. Both the number of commercial dairy farmers and the

number of productive dairy cattle have diminished in the past

few years. The National Association of Dairy Farmers (NADF)

states that of 437 commercial dairy farmers active in 1995,

only around 310 commercial dairy farmers remain in operation.

The commercial dairy herd, which stood at 96,000 animals in

1997, now numbers approximately 50,000 animals.

Traditionally, over 97% of the country’s milk has been

produced by commercial farmers. Now, production from the

remaining dairy herd has dropped to the point that Zimbabwe

is only producing two-thirds of its daily consumption needs,

with widespread shortages of price-controlled milk and price

increases in non-controlled commodities such as butter,

cheese, and other dairy products.

 

3. Much of the physical reduction has seen non-productive

cattle — calfs, dry cows, heifers in calf, which are

considered “followers” to a producing dairy herd — being

de-stocked, or sent for slaughter. Lack of animal feed and

grazing land have also diminished production. Dairy cattle

are generally given maize silage as stockfeed in order to

maximize the production of milk. In a country facing such

acute shortages of maize as Zimbabwe, stockfeed is given

little priority, and milk production has suffered.

Commercial farmers — even dairy farmers — are denied the

right to graze cattle or even to grow stockfeed maize by

militant settlers who are claiming specific fields in the

name of the Third Chimurenga (revolution).

 

4. Dairy operations are also threatened by the continued

spread of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD). Due to a lack of

forex, the GOZ — which is the only entity entitled to import

FMD vaccine — has been unable to purchase vaccine against

the disease, which can decimate dairy production in affected

herds. FMD outbreaks have been reported in Matabeleland,

Masvingo, and Manicaland, all of which border on some of the

prime dairy areas. While cattle can recover from FMD, milk

production in dairy cattle is destroyed if they contract the

disease. The NADF reports that Botswana, which has refused

to extend further credit to the GOZ for the purchase of

vaccine due to its multi-million dollar vaccine debt, is

considering giving the vaccine to the GOZ simply to protect

its own valuable herds from the threat of contagion.

 

Milk Processors Also Feel the Strain

————————————

 

5. Dairibord, the primary purchaser and processor of raw

milk products, concurs with NADF’s views. Processors are

currently working against a pricing conundrum which explains,

in part, the sharp rise in non-milk dairy products: while

the costs of purchasing raw milk have increased from Zim $35

to Zim $90 per liter in the past year, the controlled price

at which they can sell a liter of pasteurized milk is Zim $78

per liter. In a sense, the other products — butter, cheese

and yoghurt — are subsidizing the controlled cost of

pasteurized milk. Availability of raw milk has also had an

impact on non-controlled prices. Dairibord estimates that

against national demand of 13 million liters per month,

Zimbabwe’s dairy farmers are only producing 9 million liters

per month. All stakeholders agree that the primary pressure

is coming from a tangent — there is less pressure from

direct threat of takeover than from reduced productivity

based on land use issues and reduced availability of

high-quality stockfeed. Milk processors such as Dairibord

and Nestle’ are attempting to implement mitigation measures

to help protect production against such threats. For

instance, Dairibord and Nestle’ are both involved in a loan

scheme which helps subsidize the importation of stockfeed for

dairy operators.

 

Will the GOZ Seize White-Owned Dairy Farms?

——————————————-

 

6. Commercial dairy farms have so far occupied a unique

situation vis-a-vis the land resettlement program. President

Mugabe has reportedly stated that dairy farms are of

strategic importance, although nobody has been able to

corroborate where or when such a statement was made.

However, pursuant to this unconfirmed policy, dairy

operations have been largely untouched by the GOZ’s attempts

to dispossess all white commercial farmers. At this point,

of the remaining 310 dairy farmers, as many as 187 are

operating under Section 8 final acquisition notices, although

the GOZ has not pursued the mass dispossession apparent in

other sectors. Still, due to the lack of centralized control

over the resettlement process, some individual farmers have

been targeted by both renegade war vet groups and

high-profile GOZ supporters, some of whom attempt to seize

the entire asset — dairy operations, dairy herd, equipment,

and all. In one case, a farmer without a Section 8 notice

was told by war vets on November 13 that he had 48 hours to

vacate his dairy operation. The farmer desperately scrambled

to sell his productive dairy herd to other dairy farmers,

knowing that generations of breeding would be lost if the

cattle were simply sent to slaughter. The farmer eventually

learned that the farm was being claimed by Godfrey

Chidyausiku, the GOZ-appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme

Court. In another high-profile case, at least two dairy

operators in the Mazowe area — approximately one hour

outside of Harare — report that Grace Mugabe, the

President’s wife, has made two or three visits to each of

their farms. Their impression is that Mrs. Mugabe is

“shopping” for a farm which she will then claim. The NADF is

not sure if these cases imply an apparent weakening of the

view of dairy farms as “strategic” assets, or whether they

simply represent opportunistic responses on the part of

acquisitive individuals with enough power to enforce their

demands.

 

Commercial Beef

—————

7. Beef cattle operations have also been decimated by the

current resettlement program. There is less ability to

quantify the reduction in beef cattle farmers because many

farmers who produced other commodities would traditionally

produce beef cattle as well. Subsequently, there is no

discrete number which represents the number of beef cattle

farmers. However, recent calculations suggest that the

commercial breeding and beef herd has drastically decreased

— from 1.3 million in December 2001 to less than 250,000

currently — during the past year. Many of these cattle have

been sent to slaughter in an attempt by farmers to salvage

some value when they were evicted from their land. Others

have been abandoned and targeted by rustlers who have shipped

the cattle to Mozambique, where an active forex-base market

in stolen cattle is reportedly thriving. Of course such

actions, which completely bypass any attempt at veterinary

control, increase the potential spread of FMD. Some of the

cattle have simply been absorbed into the communal herd,

which changes the availability of the animals to the

consumption market.

 

Comment

——-

 

8. While both commercial and indigenous farmers raise

cattle, there is a radical difference in the value of such

cattle to their owners. Communal farmers tend to view their

cattle as more of an asset than a commodity, and value them

for draught power, sources of fertilizer, and symbols of

wealth. They are more likely to send an animal to slaughter

to cover a specific debt or to host a specific event.

According to one economist, commercial farmers traditionally

sent approximately 20% of their stock annually to

slaughter-houses, while indigenous farmers slaughtered only

2% of their stock annually. In recent years, even when

cattle farmers managed to retain some of their land, they

were still constricted by competing land use claims by

settlers, and a much higher percentage of cattle was

de-stocked. Currently, when a commercial farmer is evicted,

he faces two choices: whether to sell / abandon his cattle,

which are then absorbed into the communal or small-scale

herds, or whether to send his cattle to slaughter. Although

the communal herd is inevitably increasing due to the current

displacement, this will not necessarily increase food

security. While there has been a glut of beef on the local

market recently (most likely the result of desperate choices

by commercial farmers), the inevitable winding down of

commercial farmers’ affairs has already had an impact on the

availability of beef. Recently, despite GOZ mandated price

controls, the price of beef went up by 100%, and slaughter

houses continue to complain that they can’t buy enough cattle

to keep up with demand.

 

9. The continued efforts by the GOZ to serve Section 8

notices, as well as its apparent complicity in seizures of

farms by high-level ZANU-PF officials, belies official claims

that the land resettlement program is complete. Seizure of

the remaining commercial dairy farms could strike a lethal

blow to the already strained dairy industry.

SULLIVAN

(48 VIEWS)

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