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Namibian Livestock industry staggers

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Agriculture ministry executive director Percy Misika has revealed that the coronavirus state of emergency and lockdown has disturbed buying patterns and reduced the throughput at abattoirs.

As a result, Namibia has been unable to meet export commitments to markets like Norway, China and the European Union (EU).

Misika said because of lockdown regulations, auctions where between 50 to 100 farmers previously brought their livestock have seen buyer numbers dwindle.

“The buyers of livestock are also not free to travel and congregate at the auction kraals.”

In the past, he said, sending meat to Norway through South Africa and China took about 28 days, but because of the coronavirus, consignments have to reroute through Walvis Bay to China and then Norway, now taking almost twice as long.

Misika added that because of the coronavirus, many people in South Africa have been laid off or experienced salary cuts, and so the demand for weaners from Namibia has also decreased.

Acting executive director of the Namibian National Farmers Union, Beata Xulu, said in terms of livestock in communal areas, prices have gone down by approximately N$9/kg.

“That has put pressure on the cashflow of farmers in that they are unable to pay loans. We have engaged with government and Agribank and asked to reschedule loan payments and activate the credit guarantee scheme.”

Xulu said farmers should be granted loan repayment relief for at least six months.

Namibian Agricultural Union executive manager Roelie Venter said due to the coronavirus, the Swakara industry cannot export pelts, while the dairy sector’s production has declined and the trophy hunting sector has experienced 100% cancellation of clients.

He said in the medium-term, there is uncertainty on what is going to happen regarding markets as demand patterns are changing in South Africa and the EU.

Venter said the agriculture sector exports 80% of the income farmers receive in the country.

“So, the export market is crucial for agricultural survival.”

In terms of employment, because agriculture is an essential service, operations on farms are continuing and farmers are doing everything they can to contain any retrenchments, Venter said.

He added that primary agriculture has not recorded any loss of employment.

Venter further said emphasis should be placed on primary agriculture to grow the rural economy.

Misika added that the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency was tasked to link small-scale farmers to markets during the lockdown period, with a budget of N$3 million to do so. Farmers with idle produce should contact the agency, he said.