Beef Sector Should Aim Higher

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By Francis Mukuzunga and Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Although Namibian farmers are internationally competitive as low-cost producers of quality red meat, they should strive to be high earners by producing a better quality product so that they derive more from strategic markets such as Europe, Dr Wim Nell of the South African-based Centre for Agricultural Management has said. Namibia has enjoyed a constant demand for beef from the major world markets over the years but stiff competition from Brazil and other beef-producing countries now calls for a review of production and marketing methods, Nell warned farmers. Following the decline in global agricultural product prices, competition has become stiff and therefore farmers need to adapt to the changing world. “This is due to increased production, improved technologies, availability of information, more sophisticated management styles, etc. Therefore, being an average farmer will not be enough to experience success in future farming ventures,” he told delegates. Nell identified a total re-orientation of marketing strategies, government policies (domestic and international), climate change, environmental management and consumer demands, among others as agents for change in the transformation of Namibia’s beef marketing strategies at a global level. Nell’s presentation at the Livestock Producer’s Organisation Congress that ended yesterday was based on the book ‘Strategic Approach to Farming Success’ which states that the outcomes of such a revolution would mean Namibia’s beef exports would be at a competitive advantage for as long as the food supply systems are traceable to ensure the quality conforms with the new world trend for bio- or organic meat products, as opposed to scientifically manipulated food. “Alternative food systems are emerging as a counter to the power, consolidation and industrialized processes of transnational companies. This is opening up opportunities for value-adding by small businesses,” he said. Meat Board Managing Director, Paul Strydom said Namibian beef was enjoying an increased quota on the British market than is its main competitor Brazil, due to its good quality. Namibia’s annual quota is 13 000 tons to the ACP countries. However, Strydom said current production levels fell short of this target because of the immediate markets such as South Africa and Europe. He told New Era he hoped that Namibia would qualify for the Bio-Meat status or “Organic Meat” products as defined by internationally accredited organisations. “The international examiners have to be satisfied that you are breeding cattle on non-phosphates and non-environmentally poisonous feeding products … ” he said. He said he was however happy with the current scenario but the choice of an international company to market Namibian and Botswana beef jointly seemed to be a cause for concern. NFU president R von Haser shared the same sentiments. He recommended that farmers take note of Dr Nell’s presentation as the approach was now more globally aligned than ever before. He also told New Era that it was his hope that the new black resettled farmers would embrace the occasion to come, work and learn from their more experienced white counterparts so that “together we can move forward”. “Cattle from the eastern part of the country, for example in the Omaheke region where there are successful black farmers, could be integrated with those from the south to produce new stronger breeds,” he said, emphasizing though along the lines of strict veterinary monitoring and evaluation. Meat Board Chairperson Job Hengari opened the congress and said that value addition would bring to Namibia such benefits as creating employment, improving income, and presenting a more attractive product to clients.