Livestock Scheme Under Review

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK he Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s proposal to change the livestock marketing scheme from the present quota of 2:1 (two to local slaughtering and one on the hoof export), to 9:1, if implemented may mean that live exports of sheep will theoretically not be possible. It takes about 800 animals to fill up a lorry for export but exporting one after slaughtering every nine locally would not make economic sense, hence it would mean that there would be virtually nothing to export. The ultimate aim of this move is to ensure the county starts adding value to its products, which would in turn mean creating employment for thousands of its jobless citizens. The proposal furthermore requires exporters to slaughter the nine first before the one is allowed to be exported. The Cabinet decided in October 2003 to exempt live sheep exports from 15 percent levy on condition that all existing slaughtering facilities and tanneries are utilized to full capacity within four years as from November 1, 2003. The four years lapse in October 2007. Local abattoirs have complained that unless the issue of under capacity is resolved by having all the sheep slaughtered locally, they will be left with no choice but to retrench employees and finally shut their doors. Yesterday, the Abattoir Association of Namibia said the four small stock export abattoirs in Windhoek, Mariental, Aranos and Keetmanshoop have the capacity to slaughter all marketable small stock in the country. They each have the capacity to slaughter 1 300 small stock per day, which translates into 26 400 animals per month for the four abattoirs. Before the scheme of 2:1 was implemented, the abattoirs, according to Willie Schutz, Meat Board’s Manager: Information Systems, were slaughtering 52 800 per month, which has increased to 105 600 animals per month to date. The first ratio of 1:1 was implemented in July 2004; the second of 2:1 in March 2005, while the new proposal of 9:1 awaits feedback from the industry, which should communicate an alternative proposal to the ministry by May 8 this year. Some in the industry however contend that communal farmers will be the hardest hit if the proposal is implemented because at the moment, most communal farmers keep breeds that even if slaughtered locally cannot get a market. Since the beginning of the small stock marketing scheme 21 months ago, there has been an increase in the numbers of sheep that are delivered for local slaughter, with an average of 67 percent of the slaughter capacity being utilised since then. At the moment, local abattoirs are slaughtering at almost 67 percent capacity and if the new formula comes into force, the abattoirs may slaughter at almost 90 percent. Statistics from the Meat Board indicate that the period from February to April 2005 saw 73 000 sheep being slaughtered per month, which represents 70 percent capacity. Live exports decreased after the February peak to stabilise at approximately 20 000 head of sheep per month, which represents a total percentage of exports of 25. While this is the case, Schutz said the ratio of live exports was increasing as opposed to the percentage of slaughter capacity, which has been declining. A statement from the Abattoir Association of Namibia said yesterday they have invested millions in the country to add value to the Namibian meat industry and generate close to N$1 billion in revenue on an annual basis through its meat exports to foreign countries and as such contributed greatly to the fiscus. At the rate the scheme is going, Schutz says, it is in line with the cabinet decision and all indications are that the target of slaughtering all sheep locally will be reached well within the target date of October 2007. However, realising the fact that there will be 31 526 sheep available during the second quarter of 2006, while the available slaughter capacity is expected to be 292 800, in the event that all producers slaughter all available sheep locally during this period, only 93 percent of the production can be slaughtered, says the Meat Board. In future, it suggests that if all sheep are to be slaughtered locally, additional arrangements need to be made in terms of extra slaughtering hours or days. The Meat Board had recommended a dual annual quota system of 1:3 during the peak season between February and April and a ratio of 1:4 quota system for the off season (July to November), which has not been gazetted.