The profitability of farming is now under immense pressure as the below normal rainy season nears its end and farmers countrywide feel the pinch of debt.
The accumulated negative effects of the drought and massive increases in the price of fodder took centre stage at last week’s Executive Council meeting of the Namibian Agricultural Union, where feedback from the regional representatives and chairpersons of the various commodities made it clear that farmers in some parts of the country were very concerned about the survival of their farms.
Even though some rain fell over most parts of the country bringing slight relief, farmers who received way below normal rainfall will have to wait until the end of April to determine the state of their rangeland and do their planning accordingly.
Last year’s drought already took its toll in the form of debt and in especially the Omakehe, Oshana and Omusati regions many cattle deaths were reported.
Crop farmers in the rain-fed maize triangle and Summerdown area have also been hit hard by the sporadic and erratic rains since November last year. Most of them are clinging to the possibility of late rains in March and the Agronomic Producers Association is reluctant to make any forecasts on the expected harvest for 2016.
Due to the drought only half of the 10 000 ha of dry land was planted in the maize triangle and the Summerdown area, which will result in a drastic decrease in crops. It was already predicted that Namibia will have to import in excess of 140 000 tonnes of maize this year.
Rain-fed crop producers’ hardships are compounded by the fact that their type of farming is considered too risky to qualify for insurance.
In addition to the erratic rainfall, the expected maize shortage in South Africa will also influence feeding costs. The poultry industry is also under great pressure as feeding prices have increased by 218% since December 2008 while the increase in egg prices was 80% and the Angolan market has in the meantime collapsed.
The dairy industry, which is also very dependent on feed, has successfully bargained for an increase of 50c per litre of fresh milk with Namibia Dairies and this increase serves partially as a buffer against the increased feeding costs which support this industry.
Various issues also landed in the spotlight at last week’s Livestock Producers Organisation meeting in Windhoek.
Ongoing inspections of the veterinary cordon fence are to be undertaken by relevant regional agricultural unions after foot-and-mouth disease was contained.
With regard to international trade, the feedback on the economic partnership agreement is that the ‘legal scrubbing’ has been completed and a meeting took place in Pretoria last week to finalise the agreement for signing and ratification. The due date for ratification is October 2016.
Contracts for beef carcasses are now available on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). A meeting in this regard took place with a local broker and actions were discussed to involve producers. A launch is planned in Windhoek soon and producers will be informed in due course.
Other issues discussed were the water crisis in Windhoek, the small stock marketing scheme and RSA import regulations.