Enormous challenges threaten beef industry

14 October 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The challenges in the beef value chain are enormous and have the potential of bringing the entire industry to a standstill, which would be catastrophic for the Namibian economy.

This was said by the chairman of the Livestock Producers’ Organisation (LPO), Thinus Pretorius, at a regional meeting held in Windhoek on Friday.

“It is critically important for the LPO that all three current marketing pillars of large stock compete in balance with each other. Efforts to place control on the export of live cattle have forced the LPO to take a clear stand,” Pretorius said.

He said developments at Meatco, the pillar which adds the highest value, are approaching a breaking point if drastic and urgent action is not taken.

“The LPO is working tirelessly to return this segment to the lucrative trajectory it was on in the 1990s and to restore producers' confidence in the export abattoir.”

Pretorius further said they had not been prepared for the devastating impact the coronavirus would have on the agriculture sector.

He said the agriculture industry performed relatively well last year. According to the official figures of the Namibian Statistics Agency (NSA), agriculture's contribution to GDP grew from 4.5% in 2019 to almost 6.6% in 2020.

Primary livestock production accounted for more than 55% of this figure.

“Seen in this light and given that agriculture supports more than 70% of the population in one way or another, our industry is a core pillar in the country's economy,” Pretorius said.

Climate factor

He said grazing conditions have improved dramatically, with the exception of the north-western and far southern areas.

“The herd-building process, which started in 2020, will continue as funding becomes available. Unfortunately, this is a slow and arduous process. Prices for small stock as well as large stock are good, and the market is relatively lively.”

He said regenerative agriculture, a project of the LPO, has also experienced challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“But we anticipate that it will become an indispensable part of our management in the future in order to make farming competitive again and also keep pace with global activities.”

Small stock

Pretorius further said that the LPO has been trying for several years to get the government’s Small Stock Marketing Scheme abolished.

He said although the scheme has not yet been officially abolished, they managed to include this idea in the proposals submitted to the agriculture minister via the Meat Board and the Monassa report.

“However, the law has yet to be annulled by parliament, but we trust that our voice has been heard after 16 years.”

Pretorius said that the LPO, in collaboration with Hartlief, is also conducting a study to investigate alternative markets as well as alternative marketing methods.

The purpose of this study is to identify the international marketing opportunities for small stock and to determine whether these opportunities would enable a Namibian export abattoir to compete in an unregulated market.

“If we look at all the forecasts and models, 2022 promises to be a good rainy year and with the world's protein supply under pressure, relatively stable prices can be expected.

“If current interest rates are maintained and crime can be minimised, food production will remain an industry with great potential,” Pretorius said.