By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
The communal farming community in the Omaheke region has reaffirmed their resolve to only market their livestock through auctions and not through permits.
The ban imposed about two weeks ago on the selling of livestock through permits therefore remains in force while an investigative committee entrusted with looking at alternative buyers other than Agra and Karoo, who have decided not to buy livestock from this region’s communal areas, continue its efforts. The committee has been mandated to find an interim auctioneering arrangement for the farmers and Hammer and Tongue, a Windhoek-based auctioneering company belonging to Sidney Martin and Frank Fredericks, has been provisionally identified and consultations are ongoing to hammer out the terms of engagement. The committee is tabling a detailed proposal to Hammer and Tongue, listing, among other things, the farmers’ expectations in the would-be buying-selling relationship between them and it.
A follow-up meeting to last week’s one here, where the region’s communal farming community decided not to be coerced by auctioneers Agra and Karoo into marketing their livestock through permits, was at pains to point out that communal livestock breeders would no longer tolerate anything akin to the daylight robbery by Agra and Karoo that unilaterally fix prices. Nor would the farmers in the would-be partnership with Hammer and Tongue have anything to do with the mostly go-between white buyers they are largely blaming for monopolising the buying of livestock in the communal areas by keeping other would-be buyers out of the area. As such they have been the only buyers, even buying for other commercial would-be buyers, thus keeping prices in the communal areas low. In the process they pocket the difference between their fixed price and that of the would-be buyers they keep out, unknown to the communal sellers.
This farming community also took strong exception to go-between black buyers that they think are being used as fronts for white buyers in the art of cheating communal breeders. They also sounded a strong caution to the committee to satisfy itself about Hammer and Tongue as to its origin, its owners and its interest in the wellbeing of the Omaheke communal farmers.
Speaker after speaker emphasised the need for vigilance in striking a new deal with whomever, based on past experiences endured at the hand of auctioneers like Agra and Karoo.
The general sentiment is for a complete break with Agra and Karoo but the committee would finalise this after discussions with the two auctioneers.
Meanwhile, to alleviate the impact of Agra and Karoo ceasing to buy livestock in the Omaheke communal areas, the farming community would rely on selling big livestock directly to Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco). Meatco has hitherto been buying cows from communal areas and this would continue. However, it would also now be able to buy weaners of 270 kg and above for its feedlots at prices fixed by the feedlots. The committee is, however, still investigating ways and means of helping farmers in marketing their small stock.
The meeting reiterated that the ban on the selling of livestock through permits remains in force, referring to confusion created among the farming community. Councillor for the Aminuis Constituency, Ervin Uanguta, emphasised in his closing remarks the need for the farming community to strongly rally and stay behind the common position taken by the Omaheke communal farming community. In view of the envisaged agreement with Hammer and Tongue, he also cautioned the farming communities and their associations to have a re-look at themselves and to sort out their houses. He appealed to them, among others, to prepare well for auctions by announcing auctions well before the time and to ensure that cattle are in the pens in due time.
Senior Chief Erastus Kahuure of the Ovambanderu cautioned that the direction in which the Omaheke farming community is headed might not come easy, as many hurdles needed to be overcome. He applauded the fact that there has hitherto been no dissension among the farming community and advised that black commercial farmers and those farmers who have been resettled in commercial areas also be approached to be part of this economically unburdening process. He also appealed for vigilance, commitment and cooperation in this liberating process of some sort.
The Omaheke region’s communal farmers, traditional leaders, councillors and farmers’ association as well as officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and Meatco, attended the meeting.
This meeting was a follow-up to a meeting on April 23 and 24, where the same participants decided not to allow Agra and Karoo to force them to sell their animals through permits. Mass farmers’ meetings in the four communal areas of the Omaheke region, namely the constituencies Aminuis, Epukiro, Otjinene and Otjombinde, endorsed this decision. Not only were the farmers right behind this decision, but also they were determined to endure whatever hardship would result from this decision.