COMMERCIAL and small-holder livestock farmers can help spin the country’s beef export revenue collections should they choose to invest in the Japanese Wagyu breed whose returns are lucrative.
The Wagyu beef is one of the most expensive meats in the world fetching above US$400 per kilogram and famed for its tender, rich marbling and buttery taste with various online international chefs suggesting that although the quality of the Wagyu beef differs by region, the meat remains good even for heart health-related issues.
On average, according to the Wagyu Breeders Association, the cows can sell for as much as US$30 000 and the calf fetches 40 times the price of ordinary cattle.
And cattle range around slightly above US$1 000 in Zimbabwe with traditional breeds going for as low as US$300.
To tap into the lucrative business, Zimplats in a joint partnership with Palmline Holdings, seeks to produce 630 tonnes of Wagyu beef for export by 2026.
Already 178 Wagyu cows of various ages are at the ranch with plans for more to be bought, reported Zimplats in a statement. The cattle ranch, sitting on an 11 000-hectare area under Zimplats is expected to have a dairy herd of 5 000, producing 25 million litres of milk per annum by 2026.
Construction of a modular milk parlour for 1 500 dairy cows at one go is underway as President Mnangagwa officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony at Zimplats in Mhondoro.
Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chegutu districts’ communities are expected to benefit from a free cattle crossbreeding programme where locals will trade in their fully-fledged cattle in exchange of a better cattle breed including the Wagyu.
Chief Ngezi (born Peter Pasipamire) said locals were eager to try the new breed for an economic turnover.
“Once the crossbreeding deal has been finalised, farmers are eager to trade in their fully-fledged cows for the calves of different and new breeds including the Wagyu whose beef fetches way more above the normal price of other breeds,” he said.
According to experts, the fat unlike in most cattle breeds is evenly distributed throughout their muscle, making the beef look pink and have a tender taste.
Apart from Japan, other nations that produce Wagyu beef include America, Australia and the United Kingdom with the penetration of Zimbabwe through Palmline Investments expected to make great impressions as they target to fill the void left by Japan’s aged population whose farmers are struggling to keep up with the increased global demand.
In 2013, Japan exported five billion yen worth of Wagyu and in 2020, exports hit 24,7 billion yen which is equivalent to US$218 million.
To meet the demand of hay to fatten the cows, the Palmline Investment cattle ranch project is expected to contract local communities to grow the grass which they will buy. This is in addition to its plans of a 320-hectare irrigated pasture.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister, Douglas Karoro commended the introduction of the Wagyu and other high-priced breeds for huge returns.
“The Government of Zimbabwe led by His Excellency, President ED Mnangagwa is on a massive cattle restocking drive. I would not hesitate to recommend that the Wagyu breed be introduced into the country.
“This cattle breed has desirable meat and breeding traits. The quality of Wagyu meat is such that it has a high level of marbling and great tenderness. This implies that our farmers will make more money from the cattle rearing business,” he said.
Deputy Minister Karoro applauded Zimplats and Palmline Holdings for taking the giant leap towards the initiative by introducing the Wagyu cattle breed into the country.
The breed is normally fed three times a day with a mixture of fibre and high-energy concentrate made from rice, wheat, and hay for two years before they are ready for the market.
According to the Wagyu Breeders Association, the length of the fattening process and the import prices of the huge amount of concentrated feed increases the cost of the beef.