Beef Industry Looks Up

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The drastic drop in maize prizes in Southern Africa, especially in South Africa, has turned out to be good news for Namibian beef producers. The drop in maize prices has significantly increased the demand for animals in the country. The maize prizes, which have dropped by more than 50 percent, have resulted in feedlots in South Africa buying more weaners because it is much cheaper to feed them and subsequently sell for better prices. The marketing manager of Meatco, Andre Mouton told New Era yesterday that since the price of maize started dropping at the end of 2004, the price of cattle has been rising steadily. Mouton noted the drop in maize price also coincided with a shortage of cattle in South Africa and that increased the demand in Namibia. “The demand is so high at the feedlots in South Africa that Namibia exported approximately 60 000 cattle on the hoof last year alone.” The marketing manager also noted that some maize farmers in South Africa are moving into beef production and thus some beef farmers are selling their cattle for farming and not for slaughter. Mouton said another contributing factor is the ban of beef exports out of Brazil, because of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak there. He said since Brazil is one of the biggest beef exporters, the ban on its meat products has increased demand for local beef in South Africa. The ban in Brazil was effected last year October and is expected to last for six months to a year. “Brazil is out of the market for another four months and will still be out for another four months or even a year, and that has pushed up the prices of cattle.” He said despite the two factors that have increased the demand for livestock, the supply has also been low. He attributed the low supply on the local market to the yearly good rains. “This time of the year, the supply is usually low because farmers are coming out of a dry season and the cattle are not in a good condition and thus, the farmers are waiting for the animals to gain more weight especially after the good rains to get better prices.” Mouton however noted that in Namibia, there is no real shortage of animals and the demand has dropped a little since buyers are coming from the festive season. “We slaughtered only over 500 cattle last week. Usually, we slaughter 4 000 per week.” Mouton expects the prices to drop in three to four months, and stabilize at between N$9 and N$10 per kg unless the maize prices continue to drop. The price of cattle at some auctions has reached a record high of N$12 per kg. Meanwhile the Executive Director of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) Vehaka Tjimune has welcomed the increased demand and the better prices. Tjimune said everybody expected the prices of cattle to drop last year in November or December, but instead they went up. He said the good prices saved some farmers especially in the communal areas, who were on the brink of a drought situation. “Because of the good prices, farmers could sell their calves which were put in the same category as weaners and thus the cows had a better chance of survival.” Tjimune said new commercial farmers who acquired farms through the Affirmative Action loans and who sell the livestock only once a year have an excellent opportunity to sell their animals. The good prices have somehow also affected local small-scale buyers negatively. Meat buyers and sellers at meat markets such as the Single Quarters are finding it difficult to buy cattle because of the high prices. This has subsequently pushed up the price of roasted Kapana meat from N$1 a piece by 100 percent to N$2.