Onderombapa auction sees unprecedented prices, but farmers are cautious

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Windhoek-Farmers may have been smiling all the way to the bank following last Tuesday’s auction in the village of Onderombapa in the Aminuis Constituency with weaners fetching as much as N$42 a kilogramme, but those in the know in the communal area are cautious.

Among them is none other than Ndangi Nderura, a longtime farmer in the Aminuis communal area and one of the leaders of the Aminuis Farmers Association (AFA). Following the country’s independence in 1991, Namibian political leaders have since been harping on the second struggle, which is economic independence. But last Tuesday for some Aminuis farmers, at least those Omurari Wondjivisiro Ombaranga’s current affairs programme, Keetute, spoke to last Wednesday morning after the auction on Tuesday, it seemed that the much-talked about and long desired economic emancipation is eventually here. For some if not most, the prices the animals fetched at the auction are something they have never ever seen in that part of the world in a long time, if ever.

But not for Ndeura. Not only until the same prices are also realised in other places in the constituency like Corridor 13 – but he also thinks that such prices are only transient unless farmers in the constituency are not unnecessarily lured into a false sense of price improvement and/or stabilisation with the buyers still sticking to their exploitative syndicates and cartels, and sellers still at the beck and call of these unscrupulous buyers.

Far from being lured into a false sense that things are on the mend and are improving, the communal farming community instead must use this opportunity not only to solidify the seeming better price regime for their livestock, but must rally together if not to solidify these prices, to work for much better prices.

“As long as we are not the ones determining the price for our livestock, the struggle shall always be there to ensure that we get good prices for our livestock, especially given the era we are heading into,” says Nderura.
He adds that efforts in this regard have been ongoing and the prices at last Tuesday’s auction at Onderombapa were something of a surprise and out of the blue. Nderura says the price is only transient because there are signs telling him that come next year towards March, prices may have reached an all time low much to the disappointment of farmers.

Nderura says buyers have organised themselves in buying cartels through which they allocated themselves buying areas where any buyer would not dare buy from an area allotted to a fellow. This means there is no competition among the buyers and in this way the prices are surprising because sellers (farmers) have to deal with only one buyer at a time and do not have any alternatives at any given time.

What usually happens with these buying cartels is that the buyer of a specific area buys on behalf of fellows from other cartels, which means that a certain quota of his/her purchases are in fact not his but that of his/her fellow cartel members from other areas of the cartel. In this case buyers in a specific area are limited to only two or three at most, but one at a time like in Aminuis Constituency. One buyer buys on behalf of fellows to resell to fellows at a minimal profit.

Nderura thinks the relatively high prices which seem to have surprised some farmers and have lured still others in a false sense of things getting better are because of limited supply because farmers having realised selling their livestock only when necessary.

He says another factor is also limited supply because livestock which were previously freely available through permits are no longer available because farmers are now able to sell their livestock to other buyers who have infiltrated the hitherto monopolised buying market, thus offering better prices. Thus these livestock, which have been available at a give-away price, are no longer available and this has been forcing members of the old buying cartel on a serious buying search, thus explaining the high prices due to limited supply. Used to prices that have been exploiting the farmers, now that there are new buyers in the fray the old cartel owners have been finding the going tough now that there are new kids on the block.

Burdened by their contractual obligations towards foreign buyers the quotas of which they have not been able to fill, the old buyers have thus literally been compelled to up their game. For how long, remains a mystery and hence Nderura’s caution that the current high prices may not be here to stay.

Meantime, while the presumed increase in price seems to be only confined to Onderombapa, and the settlement of Aminuis itself being accessible to the buyers by tar road, the Aminuis community, under the auspices of the area’s traditional authority, has resolved that buyers must also reach other buying points such as Corridor 13.

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