Dairy industry on brink of collapse

The continuing drought in many parts of Namibia spells disaster for the commercial farming sector.

11 February 2020 | Disasters

The suspension of water supply from the Hardap Dam to the local irrigation scheme will not only be catastrophic for the milk industry, but no maize is expected to be produced in the Hardap Region this year.

Yesterday farmers in the region were waiting anxiously on a decision by NamWater on whether it will temporarily resume water supply to the irrigation scheme after the dam had received some inflow over the weekend.

The dam level yesterday stood at 6.8%.

By yesterday afternoon the chairperson of the Hardap Farmers Association, Dawie de Klerk, said they had not yet heard anything from NamWater.

“Still nothing. Waiting in anticipation,” De Klerk told Namibian Sun.

The dam has received an inflow of more than 2.6 million cubic metres since Friday, raising its level from last week's 5.9%.

According to the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU) the Dairy Producers Association last week discussed the crisis dairy farmers are facing.

“This industry is in a huge crisis due to the continuing drought in some parts of Namibia and the accompanying poor economic situation in the country, to such an extent that some dairy farmers are exiting the industry,” the NAU said.

The union said the country's annual milk production had declined by 9% since 2018, when 23 million litres of milk was produced, to 21 million litres last year.

“Hardap producers alone supply 80% of the milk nationwide and with the closure of the Hardap Dam you can imagine the catastrophe that this will lead to,” the NAU stated.

The union said milk production was decreasing in most dairy-producing regions because of unaffordable feed costs.

Another reason is that producers are selling some of their milk cows and this affects the supply of raw milk.

“Based on our benchmark (Milk Production Cost Index), feeding costs are 71% of the production cost.”





The union said feed costs had increased 13% from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the same quarter of 2019, which means that dairy farmers' expenses now exceed their income.

“Therefore, there is a need for all relevant stakeholders to collaborate, work together collectively to seek possible solutions in order to avoid the total collapse of the industry,” the NAU said.

The Agronomy Producers Association also met last week to discuss the challenges crop farmers are facing.

According to the NAU dryland crop production is in a critical phase, but producers remain hopeful that if the rain comes they will be able to harvest in some parts of the country.

“With the closure of the Hardap Dam, they do not expect any harvest of maize from the Hardap Region this year. Hopefully some wheat will be planted if it rains in the coming days,” the union said.

At an NAU management committee meeting held last week the drought situation was discussed in depth.

According to the union even though large parts of the commercial farming area in the north have received rain, the central and southern parts of the country are still in an enormous crisis.

“This is in contrast with last year where producers still had animals to finish off and sell. New plans are now urgently needed.”

The NAU once again urged farmers' associations to carry on supporting their fellow producers.

According to the union financial planning will be offered to farmers who need individual, confidential help.

“Talks already took place with auditors who independently look at producers' financial situation and make confidential proposals. More information will be given soon.”

Meanwhile, the Dare to Care project that was launched last year will stop at the end of March, but a new Dare to Care project is being investigated which will focus on humanitarian aid.

The agriculture union met with agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb last week to discuss the ongoing drought, a proposal on recovery after the drought and the critical importance of finalising a long-term drought strategy.

ELLANIE SMIT

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