Odds stacked against producers

There is a need for a paradigm shift by producers within the NCA regarding traditional reasons for livestock farming towards more commercially oriented objectives.

30 August 2019 | Agriculture

About 20 000 plus live cattle and products such as fresh meat are annually traded from south of the Veterinary Cordon Area (VCA) to the Northern Communal Area (NCA).

This is mainly due to the lack of supplies of NCA livestock which meet what is perceived to be beef consumer demand in terms of quality. According to a report on the Study of Marketing in the NCA, to stimulate production and supply of quality NCA beef the agriculture ministry and the Meat Board of Namibia should consider the feasibility and costs and benefits of an NCA meat market share scheme.

Through this traders would need to procure a percentage of their supplies in the NCA before being licensed to procure from south of the VCA.

“Over time it may be expected that the percentage procured in the NCA would increase. At the same time, a campaign to promote consumer demand for NCA meat should be undertaken,” says the report.

The report further says there is a need for a paradigm shift by producers regarding traditional reasons for livestock farming towards more commercially oriented objectives.

“Promoting this transformation should be supported by information and education campaigns focusing on recognizing livestock farming as a business for generating wealth.”

It further notes that sustainable rangeland management requires livestock destocking, preferably through increased sales on an annual basis.

“There is a need for awareness creation towards selling young animals in good condition that has quality meat and not necessarily old animals with poor quality meat, which is less desirable to the consumer market.”

The report stressed that the agriculture ministry should treat the leased state-owned abattoirs and meat processing facilities, which it has in recent years committed about N$250 million of capital expenditure to, as a project. It should therefore appoint a steering committee and management personnel to run it rather than effectively leave it to the operators and the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), the lease agreement manager.

“The damage done to the livestock sector by the prolonged closure of the NCA abattoirs from 2014 to date should be recognized. Likewise, the risk of future suboptimal performance and closures of the new facilities should be avoided by all means.”

The report says that in the Zambezi Region, the proposed meat processing facility needs to be constructed to offer a viable means of trading meat outside the region, which remains an FMD infected zone due to free-roaming buffalo. This is in line with international standards for FMD virus inactivation by preparing processed meat.

“Alternative commodity-based trade approaches using international standards is too costly and in any case not viable in the event of FMD outbreaks.”

In the Kunene Region, the Opuwo abattoir needs to be rehabilitated and expanded to attract both large and small stock from the region at reasonable transport costs.

The abattoirs in the north-central and two Kavango Regions need to ensure quality cattle supplies by growing and feeding cattle fodder to overcome the challenge of the poor conditions, low carcass mass, low-fat grades and old age at a reasonable slaughter weight of cattle produced in the NCA.

“Poor grazing conditions, especially during the dry season, and the high cost of supplementary feed means that farmers cannot fatten and finish cattle as they do on freehold farms to south of the VCF where rangeland management can be more readily practiced. This results in production value losses and poses supply challenges to the processing components of the value chain.”

The report says following comprehensive feasibility studies, infrastructure for fodder production and quarantine-feedlots should be established by the government at optimally located Green Scheme projects and leased to abattoir and meat processing operators to create vertically integrated enterprises. About 500 ha of irrigated land in selected irrigation schemes should produce enough silage to feed about 20 000 cattle annually.

It said that such state investment is necessary because private investors and banks cannot bear the risk of closure of operations due to FMD outbreaks. Feedlots would grow weaners and young cattle, fatten older cattle according to market demand, and would even out supplies to abattoirs over the seasons.

“Additionally, where land can be secured, the option of 500 ha of dry land cultivated native grass pastures attached to abattoirs where they can feed up to 2 000 lean cattle annually to the desired fatness and weight should be considered.

ELLANIE SMIT

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