Bailout urged for farmers

Venaani presents National Assembly motion

16 March 2020 | Disasters

The government needs to implement an urgent bailout plan for farmers who have been hit by compounded drought and also review their loan repayment schemes at banks in order for the agriculture sector to rebound.

This was said by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president McHenry Venaani in his motion on the bailout plan for farmers in the National Assembly last week.

According to him the agriculture sector needs close to N$4 billion in three to four years to be able to rebound and to start helping economic growth and sustain more jobs.

“Over the past seven years, our country has experienced the toughest and most challenging period for all our farmers, as well as for agricultural production areas, due to the severity of the drought that has affected all regions of the country.”

Venaani said since 2014 commercial farmers, communal farmers and emerging farmers have been struggling with livestock losses, crop failures and pasture and water availability.

According to him this is not just a setback for farmers, but a national problem that needs the serious intervention of a bailout plan for commercial farmers who are severely hit by compounded drought and the high repayment of their loans at commercial banks as well as at Agribank.

“Our country needs to find measures to address the problem and provide sufficient support for all our farmers that incurred production and other losses.”

Venaani further said that because Namibia is an arid country the water sector is one of the most vulnerable to drought.

“During these drought years, availability of water decreased substantially, as there had not been inflows into dams, and much of the water evaporates.”

He said in remote areas, where there is no potable water and communities rely on earthen dams and wells, the water table recedes, forcing people to dig deeper or travel longer distances in search of water.

According to him the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), which is affiliated to the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), conducted a short survey among its members to determine the decline in livestock numbers from the end of 2012 (when the drought period began) until the end of 2019.

He said the analysis of this data comes from approximately 470 commercial livestock producers across the country.



Herds devastated

The results showed that cattle herds had decreased by 48%, while sheep and goat flocks had decreased by 46%. These decreases were due to marketing, but included mortalities too. “The percentage decline is only averaged and there are several producers who indicated they had a 100% decrease and no animals left in the veld,” said Venaani.

He further said that since 2014 there has not been a time when at least one of Namibia's major agricultural production areas had not suffered a severe drought.

Venaani also referred to the Food Security Situation Report of March 2019, which assessed the crop prospects and livestock situation for 2019 to establish the country's stance in terms of food security.

According to him it revealed that the deteriorating grazing conditions experienced in most parts of the country due to poor rainfall led to 63 712 animals dying in six months, with Kunene North and the Erongo Region being the most affected, losing 12 200 and 11 800 animals respectively.

Venaani said as part of a bailout plan, the ministry of finance needs to intervene in this crisis through all commercial banks and Agribank.

He said this can also be done with the support of the agriculture ministry, farmers and agricultural unions across the country.



Low-interest loans

“One of the ways we can ponder to assist our farmers, I believe, is through lending them funds in order to recover from the drought impacts.

“As we speak, there are fewer and fewer farmers in the market, as most of them are unable to sustain themselves and run farms productively. Our farmers are unable to repay their loans.

“The financial model under which our farmers are struggling to shoulder debt needs an urgent revisit. This can go a long way in assisting them.”

He said it is important that the government, through the ministry of finance, Agribank and commercial banks, come to the aid of all farmers by providing access to low-interest loans. “We should review the repayment schemes and apply the conditions faced by all our farmers in order to address their plight.”

Venaani said according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation's quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report, Namibia and Tanzania have been added to the list of countries in need of external food aid.

“This illustrates how dire the situation truly is and why we should implement a comprehensive bailout plan for our farmers,” he emphasised.



ELLANIE SMIT

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