By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK An agricultural expert says Namibia can enter valuable international markets if it brands its meat as a product of superior quality. Professor Wim Nel of the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in South Africa, says people in charge of the meat industry should position the country in such a way that they establish niche markets on the international scene, especially now that there is a ban on meat from Brazil due to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth in that country. Nell, who spoke at a breakfast meeting of the Emerging Commercial Farmers Support Programme (ECFSP), said the next two to three years offer a great opportunity for Namibia to find alternative markets before the Brazilian border opens. “It’s a huge opportunity,” he said, adding that if the Brazilian border reopens, meat prices will drop. But for the country to do that, upcoming commercial farmers should be given full support to become full commercial farmers, failing which, the country’s economy will suffer. “We should assist all farmers with courses and assistance for holistic planning as they face highly competitive national and international markets”, he said. He also said upcoming farmers need to produce optimally on the land to avoid setbacks to the economy, considering that agriculture is one of the main contributors to the country’s economy and also that the viability of rural towns depends on agriculture. Among other matters, farmers need bigger units since those producing on small farming units struggle to become economical even if they have been farming for 50 years. The size of the land has been a concern, especially among resettled farmers who are given units on which to farm for 99 years. Another drawback has been invader bush, which has infested 26 million hectares of agricultural land. This has resulted in the decline of the numbers of cattle by one third in the 1960s. Nell said farmers could not be successful if they buy a farm of 5000 hectares of which 2000 hectares is unproductive due to bush encroachment. “As invader bush has already taken away lots of land, the economy will suffer if farmers do not produce optimally”, the agricultural expert said. To be successful in farming, Nell urged farmers to change their mindsets by among others starting to see themselves as food producers or entrepreneurs and not just sheep or cattle farmers. “The picture every cattle farmer should have is that his/her T-bone steak will land on the table of some restaurant in London”, he said. Another aspect farmers should practice is demand-driven agriculture as opposed to production-driven agriculture. At the same meeting, the ECFSP received over N$440 000 to continue supporting emerging commercial farmers in their agricultural endeavours. First National Bank donated N$250 340, Agribank, N$50 000, the GTZ N$120 000 while the Namibian Nature Foundation gave N$31 500. Other forms of support include Bonsmara bulls, which will be placed on farms of emerging commercial farms, who will in turn pass them on to other farmers. This programme will run for two years. The ECFSP was established to help contribute to the attainment of the country’s poverty reduction objective set out in Vision 2030, with the understanding that livelihoods can improve based on the increased and diversified incomes of emerging commercial farmers resulting from good agricultural practices. Some of the ways the programme supports farmers is through training sessions, information and demonstration days and mentoring schemes.
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