Despite government already having pumped N$19.6 million into the livestock marketing scheme as part of its drought relief aid to farmers, the marketing of animals from the northern communal areas (NCAs) remains critical.
This unbearable situation will tomorrow receive the attention of all role players in the meat and livestock industry during an urgent meeting that is to be held under the auspices of the Meat Board of Namibia in Windhoek.
The meeting will seek to find new ways to market livestock from the NCAs after producers from the area found themselves in a marketing wilderness when foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) last year halted all slaughtering at Meatco’s abattoirs in Katima Mulilo and Oshakati. Meatco has since handed back the only two abattoirs in the NCAs to government and rolled out a new business plan that will kick in by June this year and which entails mobile slaughtering units to curb operating costs.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) has paid out N$25 million for about 1 542 claims made by farmers countrywide. The ministry has successfully paid out 1 794 claims so far and 1 542 claims are ready for processing.
Last year the government came up with a number of drought relief measures under a N$74 million budget allocation approved by Cabinet to mitigate the effects of the devastating drought that has severely affected livestock farmers and marketers.
The relief measure came into effect as from March 1 2015 and would last until the drought situation had normalised or until the budget was depleted, whichever came first.
A livestock marketing incentive of N$400 per cattle for a maximum of 200 cattle, and N$80 per goat or sheep to a maximum of 1 000 small stock, or a combination of the two, may be given per farmer.
To qualify for the scheme, the beneficiary is required to submit proof of sale and complete a declaration that he or she experienced drought on the farm.
The consistent dry spells since 2013 have compounded the precarious situation of producers, and for now the abattoirs remain shut.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa confirmed to New Era that interested parties to operate the abattoirs have already been invited to partake in the tenderings. Mutorwa says tenders are awaited and the abattoirs will reopen as a matter of urgency to lighten the pressure on NCA farmers.
Manager of Trade of the Meat Board Goliath Tujendapi and Meatco Manager for Corporate Affairs Rosa Hamukuaja-Thobias confirmed the urgent meeting, saying Meatco’s operations will be guided by its outcome, while the Meat Board will encourage a commodity based approach. Tujendapi said the time has come to discuss the possibilities of marketing meat from the NCAs south of the veterinary cordon fence in accordance with international animal health regulations.
“Now that the NCAs have been declared FMD-free, we must all come to the party and find ways for those farmers to market their livestock which is after all their livelihood. An urgent intervention is needed to bring relief to them,” he notes.
Meatco says it is well aware of the crucial need of farmers in the NCAs to resume with the marketing of livestock after the double-edged sword of drought and FMD outbreak in 2015.
“This meeting will be attended by all stakeholders in the industry and aims to spell out the new rules of marketing livestock in the NCAs after the FMD outbreak while addressing possible markets for beef originating from the NCAs,” Hamukuaja-Thobias stressed.
On the way forward for Meatco, Hamukuaja-Thobias said the company will resume with buying cattle from communal farmers in the NCAs only when the new rules are in place.
The local meat industry is worth in excess of N$2.5 billion a year.