Not out of the woods yet

While Namibians hope for some relief in the coming season, the agricultural sector will only see relief in about five years.

13 August 2019 | Disasters

Recovery after the current drought, which has been declared a national disaster, is the biggest challenge the agriculture sector will face for the next three to five years.

Once a normal rain pattern returns to Namibia, farmers will have to enter into a herd rebuilding phase. This will put enormous cash-flow pressure on them, as they will have fewer cattle to market while expenditure and loan repayments remain the same, says the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU).

The executive council of the NAU met last week to determine the most critical factors that need to be addressed in order to recover from the drought. “On farm level recovery of grazing, herd rebuilding, cash-flow management and a positive way of thinking are the most critical issues that producers have to focus on,” the union says. On a national level, the union says it will investigate options for the re-financing of agricultural debt, assistance to its members with a cash-flow management plan and documenting drought lessons which have been learned.

Furthermore, an effective long-term drought strategy is a critical action which must be developed and implemented in cooperation with the government in order to manage future droughts better, according to the NAU. The Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) also met last week to take stock of the situation in the livestock industry and devise plans for assisting its members.

The LPO said feedback from the representatives of 10 regional agricultural unions indicated that farmers are surprisingly positive.

“The fear is, however, that farmers show a positive face, but that they are facing deep hardship.”

The LPO said for small stock producers the temporary lifting of the government's small-stock marketing scheme had brought relief and they were optimistic about the future.

There were still many unresolved issues on the agenda, though.

One of these was predators that made an already difficult situation even harder for livestock farmers.

“South Africa's foot-and mouth disease (FMD) status and the red tape to bring roughage into the country, along with other import regulations of South Africa, remain a headache,” the LPO said.

Discussions also looked at building relationships with partners such as Meatco and Farmers Meat Market, liaising with the government, the financial crunch affecting service delivery by the Directorate of Veterinary Services, maintaining border and veterinary cordon fences and other issues.

ELLANIE SMIT

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