The Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) – the torchbearer of the N$5 billion Namibian livestock industry – has requested government to allocate 10 percent of the annual national budget to agriculture.
The request was made yesterday by chairperson of the LPO, Mecki Schneider, when he delivered his chairperson’s report at the annual congress of the LPO in Windhoek.
He reminded the audience that a promise to that effect was originally made in the Maputo Declaration of 2003, and confirmed by the Malabo Declaration of 2014, by heads of state of all member countries of the African Union.
Government has for decades been spending only between four and five percent of the national budget on agriculture, despite international consensus that Namibia and other African countries should spend at least 10 percent of the budget on agriculture to boost food production.
Schneider’s plea comes amidst one of the most testing times for Namibian farmers, with some of the worst drought conditions in 50 years ravaging the sector on which some 72 percent of Namibians depend.
It also follows after the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in three decades that put Namibian livestock exports under new pressure, while the country is busy renegotiating import regulations with South Africa as its biggest livestock export market.
Schneider says allocating 10 percent of the budget would allow the agricultural sector to support the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) to undertake important maintenance work and build capacity, as well as supply effective information and education.
“Apart from that, animal health in all southern African countries will have to be improved and this issue must be taken to the highest level in SADC. With the current unfavourable weather patterns, Namibian producers will have to seriously look at more effective farming practices to raise the shrinking profit margins. “Harmonising the recently implemented joint vision of the meat industry and government’s strategic execution plan is another vital issue for the industry to move forward and survive,” he noted.
He says while the LPO is living in fear of the eventual
outcome of ongoing negotiations with its counterparts in South Africa regarding the expected harsh new import regulations, it is also worrying that auction and meat prices have hovered at the same levels throughout the year.
“What is of huge concern is that beef prices, specifically, have not increased despite the weakening of the exchange rate of the SA rand to which the Namibian dollar is coupled,” he observed.
Schneider says that after recent consultations with the SA Feedlot Association and the SA Red Meat Organisation, it has become apparent that Namibian livestock exports to SA will know its fate under the new regulations within the next 60 days.
“We once again urge government to take up this issue at the highest level with their counterparts in SA.
“Until we are informed about the new regulations from SA, we will have to implement our strategic short, medium, and long-term action plan for the industry that has been drawn up in conjunction with the Meat Board.
“Not much is certain at the moment, but what is certain is that the Namibian agricultural sector desperately needs the promised 10 percent of the annual national budget,” he said.