Need to Review Livestock Export Levy

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Windhoek The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Dr Nickey Iyambo says his ministry has not taken any new official position on the export levy of livestock, and that a cabinet decision taken in 2003 to exempt weaners from the levy until October 30, 2006 still stands. Iyambo however noted that considering current realities, his ministry is planning to make new recommendations to Cabinet in August or September. The minister said when cabinet took the decision in 2003, it was envisaged that infrastructure such as feedlots and abattoirs would be in place to add value locally. “Since 2003, no feedlot has been built as government had hoped for and thus we need to review the situation again.” He however noted that abattoirs for small stock have been opened at Mariental and Aranos and thus the levy for small stock can be imposed. The creation of feedlots is not the responsibility of government. Any business entrepreneur could have set up one, he added. “We have not yet reported back to cabinet on the developments made in the last three years and we need to do that in order to map the road forward.” The ministry also needs to consult with the ministries of Trade and Industry and Finance, as they are both role players in the matter. Iyambo noted that he was disturbed by the way parliamentarians, especially the opposition leaders have handled the issue. He said although he does not object to the debate in parliament, he feels the levy issue is a management matter. “The levy issue is not a legislative matter and parliamentarians should concentrate more on passing laws.” He said parliament should not try and give directives to cabinet or ministries. Although he could not say what recommendations his ministry will make to cabinet, he said nobody would like to punish people that are already struggling to make a living. The levy on livestock export took centre stage in parliament two weeks ago, after a motion tabled by DTA leader, Katuutire Kaura came up for debate. The motion called on government to reconsider its proposed restrictions on the live export of weaners – mainly to the South African market. The objective of the contemplated proposals by government is to increase local value addition on agricultural products, thereby increasing employment opportunities in Namibia. Last week, Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Kazenambo Kazenambo supported the motion tabled by the opposition leader. The deputy minister said that in principle, he was not opposed to Kaura’s motion, because the restrictions on exporting weaners would affect mainly small farmers, particularly those in communal areas. He warned that the issue needed to be handled very carefully because it could have a negative impact on communal farmers. Kazenambo recommended to parliament that the matter be referred back to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Economic Affairs for further scrutiny. Swapo MP, Hans Boois also joined the debate in support of Kazenambo. The debate on Wednesday was joined by more parliamentarians, such as former Minister of Trade Hidipo Hamutenya, who asked whether there were enough abattoirs in the country. Hamutenya noted that before independence, there were three abattoirs in the north but currently the one in Rundu was shut down, while the two at Oshakati and Katima Mulilo are operating below capacity. Congress of Democrats president Ben Ulenga said the levy could cause overgrazing if the weaners are not sold on time. Minister Without Portfolio Ngarikutuke Tjiriange said value addition is essential for the country but warned that oxen production, which could take up to three years, is an uphill battle for farmers. He added that there was no way all weaners could be accommodated locally.