WINDHOEK – The first ever auction in the Epukiro Constituency in the Omaheke Region has been scheduled on May 15-16 at the village of Otjiwarongo.
Farmers of Epukiro, and indeed leaders of the Eastern Epukiro Farmers Association (EEFA) cannot but hold their breaths to see how this auction will pan out in terms of prices.
Prices in the constituency seem to have almost hit rock bottom lately, hovering around N$20 a kilogramme. This is a drastic fall from the prices late last year, and early this year of around N$32-N$34 per kilogramme. It is in this regard that the president of EEFA, Katjinduu Tjahuha is making an urgent appeal for farmers to tighten their belts and refrain from taking their animals to neighbouring Otjinene village, about 90 kilometres away, or to Gobabis a further 130 kilometres away.
If the envisaged auction becomes a success, it could pave the way not only for the farmers of the Epukiro Constituency and surroundings, but could be the beginning of the long overdue transformation for the whole of the Omaheke Region where depressed livestock prices have been a major concern. All the communal areas in the Omaheke Region such as Eiseb, Otjombinde, Aminuis and Otjinene just like in many other cattle breeding communal areas in the regions of Otjozondjupa, Erongo and Kunene have been going heavily under the depression of livestock prices.
For Tjahuha personally, better prices for livestock is one of his missions since taking the leadership of EEFA in May last year. The long term, if not immediate plan, is to phase out selling by permits which have been at the root of the depressed livestock business in many communal areas, including his own Epukiro backyard, a system that he likens to the ‘mafia’ dominated by a handful white buyers. He claims that the very same buyers who divided the communal areas in the region among themselves, by agreement among them, would not dare encroach upon the area of fellow buyer. In this regard only one buyer prevails in anyone area, thus his price in that area is the alpha and omega. “This is a great concern for farmers who have been breathing heavily. The last two permits were very weak because the prices were very low,” Tjahuha sighs heavily reiterating that the few buyers in the constituency is the biggest problem. He adds that only three buyers operate in the whole of Omaheke rendering the region a monopoly of buyers rather than sellers, who connive in depressing prices by refusing to encroach on the so-called areas of one another.
In their seeming conniving shenanigans, Tjahuha also accuses the buyers of being untruthful with going prices in the market, especially in South Africa. While prices at feedlots in South Africa may be in the range of N$30 at any given time, farmers in the communal areas would be told that they are in the range of N$20. In this regard EEFA is sending two people to South Africa to explore the possibility of farmers selling directly to feedlots there without the middle people (buyers). But this is only as far as the Epukiro Constituency is concerned while as Tjahuha admits, the problem is akin to the whole Omaheke and thus needs a holistic concerted frontal approach involving all stakeholders. Yes, agrees Tjahuha about the importance of a meeting of all stakeholders to map a meaningful and lasting solution forward. This is especially in view of the fact that isolated approaches, like in his own case have proven ineffective. Epukiro’s own efforts, among others, to have auctions were met with rejections, from among others AGRA, until now with Karoo Ochse that agreed to have auctions in the constituency next month.
Not only this but as much as the understanding and perseverance of farmers in this regard is of essence, especially in enabling that the envisaged auction in May mobilises the requisite number of cattle, 400-plus, by the farmers sacrificing whatever immediate need they may have, save real emergencies, to take their animals to Gobabis. One reason why buyers have been absent from the constituency is because farmers have not only readily been availing their cattle but physically taking them on their own expenses to Gobabis. Thus the supply in Gobabis has not been a problem, thus in a way undercutting would-be auctions in the constituency. Meanwhile, for now and until the auction next month in Epukiro, there would be no permits in the constituency.