By Wezi Tjaronda
Movement of livestock from and into the Omaheke region’s communal farms has been suspended in terms of sales until it is decided otherwise at a meeting scheduled for next Friday.
This decision was taken in Gobabis on Wednesday, at a meeting attended by representatives of farmers’ associations, cooperatives, the regional farmers union, regional councillors and traditional leaders.
It follows hot on the heels of a decision by auctioneers, Agra and Karoo, not to conduct auctions anymore in the eastern communal areas for various reasons. These include lack of security in transporting auction money from Gobabis to these communal areas, about N$20m that buyers in the region owe the auctioneers and disorganisation among the communal farmers’ associations, especially the absence of a yearly auctions calendar. However, with Agra willing to go ahead with auctions in Otjinene, Onderombapa, Corridor 13 and Aminuis, spokesperson of the just-ended Gobabis meeting and Otjinene Constituency Councillor, Ezekiel Toromba, wondered what happened to the security issue in this regard.
He also questioned why auctions in the commercial areas are not affected since the bulk of the N$20m that the buyers owe the auctioneers is owed by buyers from these areas with Omaheke only owing N$3m and the communal buyers in that region only N$1.4m.
Farmers associations in the region already decided two years ago to rather sell their cattle at auctions and not through permits because of the low prices offered at permits. The said decision was communicated to the associations on Wednesday.
“The Omaheke Regional Farmers Union (ORFU) opted for auctions and not permits because permits benefit buyers and not farmers. The buyers determine the price and farmers do not have a choice but to accept,” Toromba said, adding that auctions had many buyers who compete and offer better prices.
Toromba said the decision to suspend the sale of cattle would stand until May 2 when a six-member committee set up to investigate the issues surrounding the marketing or selling either by auctions or permits is sorted out. He said farmers’ associations were requested to hold meetings with their members to inform them about the decision. Some of the associations such as Otjinene and Epukiro will hold their meetings tomorrow.
In the meantime, Toromba said the committee would engage the Omaheke Governor to find out from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry through the Gobabis State Veterinarian the possibility of stopping the issuance of permits to farmers.
Toromba said the idea behind the action is not to stop the selling of livestock but to find a solution to the impasse between the farmers and auctioneers, Agra and Karoo. He noted that this would affect communal farmers who depend on the livestock for their livelihood, including paying school related expenses for their children. Schools open on May 13.
Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to chairpersons of Communal Farmers Associations regarding auctions in eastern communal areas, the Livestock Auctioneers, Brokers and Traders Association (LABTA), says “due to very high cost (especially the financing of buyers) it will be impossible to conduct an auction with less than 300 cattle for less than 5 percent commission (to the agent) or an auction with 300 + cattle for less than 4.5 percent commission (to the agent) in future. This means that for up to 300 cattle the concerned communal association will receive one percent of the commission or when in excess of 300 heads, 1.5 percent.”
Toromba said LABTA said it would only hold auctions in Gobabis and four other communal areas.
Contacted for comment yesterday, LABTA Chairperson, Sakkie Prinsloo, said he did not know about the farmers’ decision not to sell their cattle. He said the so-called decision not to hold auctions was a rumour that started two to three weeks ago.
“We don’t know what is going on. This is a rumour. It is devoid of any truth,” he said.
Prinsloo added that as businesspeople, auctioneers could not afford not to hold auctions.
“We will lose money if we do things like that,” he said.
Prinsloo said LABTA was not in favour of the permit system because it disadvantaged its traders. He said lots of cattle went to one person who also competed with others at auctions.
He added that traders received better prices and better commission at auctions.