Unscrupulous cattle dealers are short-changing farmers in Gwanda by barter trading drought weary animals with seed maize, mealie-meal and other items which are not commensurate with the value of the beasts.
Farmers in Matebeleland South in particular are fast losing their livestock due to drought which is ravaging the province.
According to the Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services, Matebeleland South provincial officer, Simangaliphi Ngwabi, a total of 600 cattle deaths have been recorded in Matebeleland South.
Cattle farmers who spoke to newzimbabwe.com over the weekend complained that abattoir owners and cattle dealers from Bulawayo and Masvingo have invaded Manama , Ntebe and Tuli areas in the province offering as little as 100kgs of maize for a single beast.
A cattle farmer in Tuli area, James Gumbo said he parted with his cow last week for as little as two 50Kgs bags of maize.
"Because of the draught situation, one of my cows had become so thin that is could not move. I was forced to sell the cow to someone from a Masvingo abattoir who was moving around with a truck buying cattle.
"He offered me 100kgs of maize and I had no choice but to accept the offer because I wanted to feed my family. Last year most people here did not harvest anything because of drought," said Gumbo.
A 50kg bag of mealie meal cost $250 in shops while the cost of a beast ranges from $5000 to $10 000 in local currency depending on the quality and size.
Another farmer in Manama area Charity Ndlovu said she was also forced to barter trade her cow with maize seed.
"Last week, I exchanged my cow with a 50Kg bag of maize seed. I could not afford the price of seed. If I did not barter trade the cow, I was likely to lose the beast due to the drought. At least I now have adequate seed to plant in my field," said Ndlovu.
A 50kg bag of maize seed costs $1897.50.
Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) Matabeleland provincial chairperson, Innocent Babbage said a lot of farmers in the province have been losing their livestock due to shortages of water and pastures.
"The livestock situation in Matebeleland is dire. Animals are being trapped in mud while looking for water at the few watering points in the province.
"Most farmers have now resorted to boreholes to water their Livestock. The other problem is that human beings are also facing water challenges," said Babbage in an interview with newzimbabwe.com.
Babbage added that although most farmers are destocking, statistics show that animals being slaughtered are fetching less competitive prices due to the state of their health.