WINDHOEK – A state of emergency has been declared in the Namibian livestock industry on whose livelihood some 72 percent of all Namibians depend directly or indirectly.
The crisis was declared by stakeholders and role players last Friday at an urgent strategic meeting in Windhoek after the industry was thrown into turmoil due to lack of rains across the country.
The meeting organised by the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) got a clear mandate from all role players to inform government this week about the looming disaster as grazing continued to dwindle in parts of the country.
It was also stated that local abattoirs are struggling to accommodate volumes of livestock delivered to them by desperate farmers who are trying to get rid of their animals.
Speaking to New Era minutes after the meeting which was held behind closed doors, chairperson of the LPO Mecki Schneider said it looks certain that the crisis will have far bigger repercussions than the drought of 2013 as cattle and small stock producers have used up all available grazing with no reserve grazing available.
Asked for comment on the looming crisis, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa told urged farmers to have faith.
“I eagerly wait to be informed by the LPO of its independent survey of the situation and government is also busy conducting its own research via its National Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU),” he said.
“The report should be finished within the next few days after which Cabinet will be informed and the Risk Management Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister will decide on a course of action,” he explained.
The dramatic announcement of an emergency drought strategy follows hot on the heels of the the crop farming industry announcing a dismal total harvest in both the commercial and communal areas during a similar meeting two weeks ago.
The meeting also urged farmers to sell their animals which are still in good shape as prices for cattle have dropped from more than N$19 p/kg to just N$14 p/kg in the past week alone.
Twenty feedlots and abattoirs have been identified in South Africa but Schneider says the sheep markets in northern neighbouring countries need to be urgently explored and government will be asked to export lean and under-weight sheep without any restrictions.
The goat market in KwaZulu-Natal is doing normal business with Namibia which is a relief for communal farmers but Schneider stresses the importance of exploring new markets.