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SMALLHOLDER pig producers, accounting for 80% of the country’s pig producers, are reportedly struggling to access maize as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has not availed an allocation for them, rendering their businesses unviable.

According to Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019, maize is a controlled product, meaning no person or statutory board or company or entity shall sell or otherwise dispose of any maize except to a contractor or GMB.

In its first quarter pork sector market report, the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (LMAC) said pig producers were struggling to access maize from GMB, a situation which was affecting productivity.

“About 80% of pig producers are small-scale, however, in terms of pigs slaughtered, large-scale abattoirs account for over 70%.

“The main challenges in pig production include inferior breeds, unavailability of funding, high feed and drug costs, persistent droughts, lack of management skills, insufficient extension services, and marketing policy bottlenecks,” the report read in part.

“Another challenge is the shortage of electricity. Most piglets die from the cold, or are crushed  as they try to seek warmth from the sow. Smallholder pig producers are reportedly struggling to access maize as GMB has not availed any allocation and current legislation makes it illegal to purchase directly from maize farmers.

“This segment is the most vulnerable from the effects of a declining and volatile economy, where supply bottlenecks of raw materials are routinely experienced.

“This has resulted in escalating cost structures that producers pass on to consumers whose disposable incomes have to contend with an inflationary environment,” LMAC said.

The report notes that cumulative pig slaughters for the first quarter of 2021 were 45 246 head, 4% lower than the corresponding period in 2019 and 21% greater than in 2018.

The slaughters were the second highest for any first quarter period since 2013.

The slaughters for the month of March were the highest for the three months under review at 18 256.

This was also the third highest slaughter figure since 2017, with December 2020 recording the highest at 20 381.

For the period under review, baconers made up 42% of total slaughters, with manufacturing and general purpose two percentage points less at 40% while porkers made up the remaining 18%.

“The dominance of porkers and baconers grades in all the provinces with the exception of Mashonaland West suggests that destocking of breeding stock has stabilised. Problems in securing raw materials for stockfeed and other support services compound challenges faced by small-sized pig producers,” the report said.

Pig producer wholesale prices for the first quarter showed modest increases when compared with the general cost environment that has registered significant upward movement.

Producer prices rose only 18% in the first quarter of 2020 while wholesale prices went up10%.

Price competition from other animal proteins, particularly poultry and other substitutes such as eggs, have put downward pressure on pork prices.

This has also been exacerbated by the reduced purchasing power of the consumer.

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