By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Ovambanderu Senior Chief, Erastus Kahuure, is calling on the Omaheke Region’s communal farming community to speak with one voice if they are to be successful in the marketing of their livestock.
Kahuure made the appeal in view of the undercurrents of differences between the farming community and marketing agents, especially white ones. The communal farming community last Monday met the livestock buying agents to sort out their differences and to determine whether the agents with whom the farming community has been having problems regarding auctions under Agra and Karoo would still be acceptable under the new auctioneers, Hammer & Tongue.
Agra and Karoo decided that as from last month, they would no longer buy livestock from the communal areas in the Omaheke Region, citing as among the reasons the security risk involved in transporting cash from Gobabis to the communal areas in Omaheke.
However, while it has been public knowledge that Agra is also part of the decision by the Livestock Auctioneers, Brokers and Traders Association (LABTA) to do away with auctions in the Omaheke communal areas and rather to buy livestock under the permit system, Agra maintains that auctions are its preferred means of buying.
Kahuure was instrumental in the meeting last Monday that brought a truce between the communal farming community and the agents, paving the way for the buyers to continue with their role under the new arrangement with Hammer & Tongue.
He was anxious lest the differences between the communal farming community and the buyers, a purely business issue, be seen in black and white terms. He said the communal farming community had no other alternative but to find substitute auctioneers following Agra and Karoo’s decision not to buy livestock through auctions in the Omaheke communal areas, a move that has unfortunately come to be interpreted in black and white terms.
He said the tension that has been brewing between the agents and the farming community is not conducive to the future of the communal livestock industry. Now that an alternative auctioneer has been found, agents should have the liberty to buy livestock on behalf of the auctioneers as they have been doing under Agra and Karoo. He believes that there has been realisation among white agents that their misconduct in the buying of livestock in the communal areas is at the peril of the industry and their own.
The meeting last Monday agreed to continue to buy cattle on behalf of the new auctioneers but that their conduct shall all the time be under the microscope of the communal farming community and its representative farmers’ associations.
However, there is a feeling among some communal farmers that the truce between the communal farming community and the agents whose past conduct has not been satisfying to the communal farming community, may have come too soon. This feeling doubts whether the agents have genuinely turned over a new leaf.
Rather than again relying on these agents the farming community should instead have turned to own agents in terms of buyers hailing from the community itself. There is also a feeling that in view of Agra’s withdrawal from auctions in the Omaheke communal areas, farmers should not continue to support Agra by buying from its various agricultural products outlets.
However, the spokesperson for the communal farming community and Councillor for the Aminuis Constituency, Ervin Uanguta, speaking on the NBC Otjiherero Language daily morning current affairs programme Keetute on Friday, was of the opinion that the farming community has as yet not contemplated boycotting Agra’s shops as it has hitherto been trying to find alternative auctioneers in view of Agra and Karoo’s withdrawal from auctions in the communal areas in Omaheke.
Kahuure also appealed for patience from the farming community especially in view of the slow sorting of animals that has characterised auctions under Hammer & Tongue, saying this should be expected in view of the large number of animals auctions have attracted due to the long layoff period following the withdrawal of Agra and Karoo.
He also appealed to the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and commercial banks to help the previously disadvantaged agents with loans so that they could also become factors as agents. He says lack of money has inhibited them from entering this trade.
In the same vein, Kahuure is appealing to Agribank to help the communal farming community with funds to improve auction pens and to modernise auctions in these communal areas. Farmers’ associations would also be able to help in this regard should commission they get from the livestock sold in their communal areas increase.
Kahuure thinks it is also time that enlightened people from the communal farming community bring their due in terms of advising the community in various aspects about the economics of the livestock industry and the on-going market prices so that the community is not just at the mercy of scrupulous agents.
Last but not least, Kahuure thinks that the community itself must be exemplary and show good conduct at auctions if it is to impress the new auctioneers. Traditional leaders in particular must lead the good behaviour crusade. Kahuure is so far impressed with the auction prices under Hammer & Tongue, comparing them favourably to prices at auctions in Gobabis.