HARARE, March 11 — Poultry farmers and stockfeed manufacturers in Zimbabwe have dismissed reports that farmers are feeding their chicken with anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to speed up their growth.

There have been reports that several small-scale poultry producers in the country were mixing ARVs and chicken feed to fast track the growth of the birds in order to achieve for quick sales. The reports said the ARVs assisted the birds in reaching maturity by at least two weeks faster than normal.

Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA) chairman Solomon Zawe told journalists here Tuesday that farmers were still using recommended stockfeeds but maturity was now reduced from 45 to 32 days because the breed of chicken being raised matured faster.

“We used to have chicken which used to grow at eight weeks but our genetics have improved. We have Ross as a breed which is growing faster and also qualities of feeds have improved and efficiency of farmers is now high as well because poultry is a volumes game,” he added.

“No one else is picking chicken at 42 days but with natural feed they are maturing at between 32 and 35 days. How can farmers find ARVs to give chicken given the scarcity? There is nothing else being put in that
feed bag, besides natural feed, maize and soya bean.”

Zimbabwe Stockfeeds Manufacturers Association chairman Fungai Mungate concurred with Zawe that reports that chicken were being fed with ARVs were not true and had the potential to damage the image of locally
produced chicken.

“We need to stand up and clear the misconception which has the potential to damage the integrity of locally produced chicken brand which has been hailed as the cleanest chicken in Africa at a time a lot of countries have adopted GMO technology which is unnatural,” he said.

“If we go back to science there is absolutely no connection between ARVs and the digestive system of a chicken.”

National AIDS Council monitoring and evaluation manager Amen Mpofu said his organization had not encountered cases of farmers using ARVs to feed chicken. “We are concerned and we are advising farmers that this is not good. If true, the practice of feeding chicken with ARVs will divert our efforts to end AIDS by 2030,” he said.