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Zimbabwean retailers warned on Tuesday the country was facing severe shortages of meat after the authorities banned beef, poultry and pork imports from South Africa over a disease outbreak and to protect local producers.

The government banned beef imports from South Africa last week over the outbreak of the Rift Valley Fever in that country, but also included poultry and pork meat to protect local producers.

Retailers said the ban had already led to shortages of meat of all kinds, and warned prices were likely to shoot up in coming weeks.

Meat production in the country, previously dominated by white farmers, has dropped sharply in recent years after the producers were evicted from their properties by the government under its controversial land reforms.

As a result, much of the meat consumed in Zimbabwe now is imported from a number of countries, particularly neighbouring South Africa, Reuters reports.

Zimbabwe was one of the main meat exporting countries in Africa, holding a stipulated EU quota.

'The ban is likely to see an increase in beef and pork prices as production in this country has remained low, resulting in higher prices for the products,' Danford Matashu, an official of the Retailers Association of Zimbabwe, said.

Apart from the Rift Valley Fever, authorities have also cited health concerns about South African meat imports, as Pretoria allows use of genetically-modified organisms in food production which Zimbabwe strictly disallows.