Farmers Must Tread With Due Caution

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IT is difficult to obtain separately from Agra as well as the Omaheke communal farming community the true state of affairs in terms of the marketing of livestock through auctions.

About three weeks ago, in an apparent rebuttal of a move by Agra and Karoo to stop buying livestock from the Omaheke communal areas via auctions, the communal farming community also decided not to sell their animals through permits. Their contention is that permits have been a rip-off since buyers do not compete. However Agra, or the Agra top structure, seems to be distancing itself from what seems a common position of livestock auctioneers, brokers and traders represented in the Livestock Auctioneers, Brokers and Traders Association (LABTA). That is why it is hard to know Agra’s real position, as behind closed doors in their five-star offices top managers are categorical that they are in favour of auctions. In public, especially when engaging the farming community, the common position is that of LABTA.

Strangely, while Agra is apparently against permit sales and all for auctions, it could not honour auctions in Otjinene, Eiseb and Aminuis presumably because it had no buyers. Yet this is at a time when the common decision not to engage in auctions in Omaheke was to be effective. Who are Agra’s buyers and are they not the brokers falling under LABTA whose position is clear, not to engage in auctions? These are matters that Agra needs to clarify if its recent public posturing of being in favour of auctions, is to have any semblance of credibility.

The Agra bosses were taken aback by what they described as “uninformed, ignorant and even malicious statements, which were made at the meeting regarding our organisation (May 2 meeting)”. We are not quite sure what statements the Agra bosses are referring to but whatever statements the farming community must have fired or misfired were not directed at Agra per se. To most of the farmers Agra is a faceless entity.

It is true that somehow there has been confusion between Agra and Karoo regarding the withdrawal of agents from the communal areas, to the extent that Agra has also been at the receiving end of the communal farming community’s anger. However, the real targets of such anger and frustration are Agra and Karoo’s buying agents. Yet, one just wonders to what extent the bigwigs of either Agra or Karoo have been and are aware of the groundswell disappointment in their buying agents? Some of these agents seem, by the accounts of the communal farming communities, to be arbiters of unfair trade practices forming cartels of their own, unknown or known to Agra and Karoo, with a price regime privy to themselves and their cartels and little to do with enhancing the markets for the communal farming community.

All good things that Agra claims to be to all people and to be doing are granted, but this is not the gist of the concern of the communal farming community. Their concern is in the prevailing price structure. The public face of this price structure is first and foremost Agra and Karoo’s agents. Agra and Karoo as entities only exist in name and in reality the people they deal with are their agents. This is the matter that needs addressing if it is not too late, as the communal farming community is already looking for alternatives and is reportedly close to striking a deal.

One understands the pressure on the leadership of the communal farming community in Omaheke to find a replacement for Karoo. However, it seems Agra is available but in some haste and blind rage – a result of years of perceived robbery – this leadership seems to be overlooking and bypassing Agra. Thus cognizant of the pressure it might find itself under, caution must be the order of the day.

We are sure whatever solution the farming community wants to find at the end of the day, they want it to be a lasting one. Certainly unnecessary haste cannot be the best agent of any lasting solution. Not if in this haste long-running partners like Agra all of a sudden become foes, regardless of the fact the auctions remain by their own pretence, the only means of buying livestock.

However, it would do future relations between the communal farming community and Agra a world of good if Agra comes clean of the holy alliance as presented by LABTA.

LABTA is proving to have among its midst elements hell bent on working against the interests of the communal farming community to feather their own nests as represented by the corrupt livestock pricing structure. As long as Agra appears to be bedfellows with these elements at night and friends of communal farmers at day it cannot but become the unintended target of the frustrations of these farmers. Also Agra can do best to remove the ambivalence among itself with its foot soldiers saying one thing and its commanders saying another. Lastly one cannot but agree with Agra that dialogue is the only solution.

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