Sheep Farmers Get Green Light

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Sheep farmers can now export sheep that cannot be accommodated at local abattoirs following new regulations that were approved by a special board meeting of the Meat Board last week. From May 15 until July 15, sheep farmers will be granted permits to export the equivalent of 20 percent of their sheep stock that were slaughtered between May 1, 2006 and April 30, 2007. A statement from the Meat Board last week said: “During the period May 15, 2007 to July 15, 2007, a permit may be granted for such quantity of sheep which in aggregate does not exceed 20 percent of the sheep which such a person has, during the 12-month period from 1 May 2006 to 30 April 2007, delivered or caused to be delivered at an abattoir for slaughtering, irrespective of whether such sheep has already been taken into account for the issuing of an export permit before.” This will however be on condition that the number of sheep delivered at abattoirs for slaughtering is not accredited to any other person than the owner of the sheep. The Meat Board said the practice of trading or cessation of slaughtering quotas has been noticed in the past. Farmers who fail to obtain slaughter space within 21 days of requesting their turn from at least two abattoirs of their choice will also be granted permits to export a number of sheep equal to the number of sheep for which they required such a slaughter turn. Willie Schutz, Meat Board Manager: Information Systems, said this was an incentive for farmers to slaughter as soon as possible but if they failed they would be given quotas to export. Namibia has four small stock abattoirs – in Windhoek, Aranos, Mariental and Keetmanshoop – and exports about 1 million sheep each year. Previously the country used to export 80 percent of its sheep, a situation that has changed to between 20 and 30 percent presently. With the months of April and May being the peak production season for sheep farmers, Schutz said, there are lots of animals on farms. While this is the case, the prevailing drought situation has made the country face “a bigger situation than normal”. The country received below normal rainfall in March due to the El Nino condition and in addition the traditional Easter weekend rains did not fall. Farmers have to wait for six and at times up to eight weeks to have their slaughter turn at abattoirs, resulting in weight loss for the animals. Presently, around 60 000 sheep need to be exported during May and June. Although the local abattoirs have the capacity to slaughter, they can only slaughter about 216 000 in May and June. These measures will be implemented until mid-July when other measures will be put in place. Although the drought would continue, Schutz said, the peak season would soon be over. In a bid to encourage value addition to boost employment creation, Cabinet four years ago decided to exempt live sheep exports from a 15 percent levy on condition that all existing slaughtering facilities and tanneries are utilised to full capacity within that period. The first ratio of 1:1 was implemented in July 2004, the second of 2:1 in March 2005, while the 6:1 ration was implemented in September 2006 with a target of then having all sheep slaughtered locally by October this year.