Namibian cattle farmers are now 80 percent worse off than ten years ago, as they have been subjected to an eight percent profit loss per year over the past decade.
The rate at which input costs have increased is much faster than any growth in income and agri-inflation is way higher than the general consumer inflation rate, said Micki Schneider.
Speaking at the 53rd watershed Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) congress yesterday, Schneider – the retiring chairperson of LPO – painted a gloomy picture of current livestock and rangeland conditions, but also highlighted the opportunities to unlock the full potential of agriculture.
He stressed the importance of rangeland recovery after four consecutive droughts and listed smart farming, a motivated workforce and value addition to livestock export products as some of the key factors that will decide the future of the industry.
Schneider took a swipe at Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry officials “getting stuck on textbook definitions of so-called value addition”, saying “these officials continuously hammer on about job-creation. But it makes no sense to focus on a few hundred job opportunities at the small stock abattoirs, when thousands of farm jobs are in the balance.
“The farming industry is shrinking. Just look at the impoverished southern towns, where the shrinking small stock industry is taking a heavy toll. The LPO has for the umpteenth time the huge task to drive the negotiation process in favour of small stock farmers and wealth creation,” he noted when he spoke of the sheep exporting system to SA.
Schneider revealed that Namibian sheep producers only get about 50 percent of the value of the sheep carcass when they deliver live, market-ready products. More than 48 percent of the value of the carcass is taken up by the processing and trade partners, which means 48 percent of value addition takes place in SA and not in Namibia.
“This financial pressure, coupled with the drought and the export uncertainties (which negatively influence weaner prices), put a tremendous burden on Namibian stock farmers,” he lamented.
Schneider also expressed concern about the challenges facing the beef export sector.
“Urgent policy matters concerning Meatco, as Namibia’s flagship abattoir, are still in flux and the new business plan and board of directors of Meatco still need to be concluded.
“Cabinet approved the transfer of Meatco to the Ministry of State Owned Enterprises, but producers are in a state of uncertainty and it affects the markets of our processed goods, as well as Meatco, which remains an important partner in the viability of the beef industry,” he noted.
After serving the LPO for 18 years as committee member and four years as chairperson Schneider was delighted with the manner in which Namibian producers with the intervention of government found a simpler way of exporting livestock to feedlots and abattoirs in SA without having to adhere to the strict new export regulations initially demanded.
“But it is absolutely shocking to observe how there is no insight into the dynamics of small stock marketing and absolutely no understanding of the challenges faced by small stock farmers, in spite of the value addition studies done by the agricultural ministry.
“No one takes note of the small stock farmers losing millions of dollars and that the industry is lapsing backwards. This attitude taken by the authorities contributes to the fact that agriculture’s share of the GDP is becoming less and less. We are all extremely frustrated that the 12-year dispute over a proper small stock marketing scheme is still not resolved.
“It makes absolutely no sense that secondary role players in the value chain are profiting and placed in a comfort zone, whilst farm production at grassroots level is handicapped and forced into degeneration. Farmers will be forced away from small stock production to other farming activities, such as game and tourism. The LPO has now to formulate its independent viewpoint and deliver it to the agricultural ministry.
”The voice of agriculture needs to be loud and clear and the pendulum will swing again to years of plenty,” he concluded.