Zimbabwe's poultry farmers are losing close to 1 million broiler-hatching eggs, worth US$42,000, per month due to prolonged power cuts or disconnections, according to a report by the country's agricultural industry.

Each 24-hour power outage causes the death of 700 out of every 10,000 birds, according to the report, and the power cuts are increasing production costs by 12 percent to 25 percent due to the buying, installation, running and maintaining of generators. Poultry producers say they are also facing an increase in power tariffs, which were supposed to be accompanied by an increase in improved supplies.


"There has been a decrease in productivity on layer flocks and breeding units as a result of insufficient light hours, especially during winter," said the report. "Abattoirs are experiencing live weight losses of 0.25 percent for every hour of delay in the slaughter of chickens when not feeding or drinking while in trucks. More than 30 minutes of disruption in slaughter leads to losses." The resulting increases in production costs can't be passed on to consumers, said farmers, because then they couldn't compete with imports.

The industry is asking the Zimbabwean government to direct power company Zesa Holdings Ltd. to stop disconnecting farmers and to do a forensic audit of Zesa bills on the agriculture sector. The sector is also recommending that Zesa institute a stop-order payment system for farmers while making the necessary effort to repair power transmission, measuring instruments and any other related infrastructure in the farming areas, and that Zesa provide the correct size of transformers, meters, accounts and charge actual consumption instead of relying on estimates.