Red Line ‘politicised by opportunists’

Safeguarding the livestock farming sector is more important than individuals’ political aspirations, organised agriculture says.

13 October 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

Political opportunists are politicising the status of the Veterinary Cordon Fence in the media and unnecessarily squandering valuable energy and funds to drive their own agenda, according to the chairman of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), Thinus Pretorius.

He was speaking at the organisation’s regional meeting that took place in Windhoek last Friday.

Meanwhile, the president of the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU), Piet Gouws, said much attention has been paid to improving the health status of the national livestock herd, specifically in terms of lung disease and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) north of the Red Line.

“Various discussions were held regarding compartmentalisation, fencing, zoning and commodity-based trading models, as well as the cost and market access of each.

“The significant differences that exist in farming practices, animal health management and cultural-economic frameworks north and south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence [VCF], together with political aspirations of individuals and their lack of in-depth knowledge of international trade agreements, contribute to an extremely complex and sensitive issue.”

He said the NAU will support agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein and the Meat Board with relevant and necessary data if required during the court case regarding the VCF, in which Affirmative Repositioning activist Job Amupanda is demanding the removal of the red line.

Sustained pressure

Pretorius said efforts to maintain Namibia’s status as a disease-free zone are under sustained pressure from several quarters. He added that controlling FMD is becoming a significant problem due to the porous borders with neighbouring countries and the lack of control over movement of livestock from these countries.

“The state's proactive actions in the past are turning into reactive actions. Every year we see how this infestation creeps alarmingly closer to the VCF, which is the only barrier between the Northern Communal Areas and the areas south of the VCF.”

He stressed that the status of this fence is under siege by elephants that break the line on a daily basis.

“The years-long successful conservation of the elephants is turning into a conservation embarrassment. What is extremely worrying is that although the environment ministry acknowledges that this is a significant problem, no concrete actions are being taken to control the problem.”

Pretorius said after an on-site investigation, he became aware of the never-ending repairs being done by the neighbouring farmers in these areas.

“Apart from the hours lost, it also has a huge financial impact on these producers. Some producers have also already electrified their border fences from their own funds in an effort to continue production.”

Workable option

He said this is why the LPO supports the actions of the Meat Board to introduce an additional levy to assist the Directorate of Veterinary Services to help finance essential services.

“After inspecting the line and having discussions with the producers, the only workable option seems to be the electrification of the VCF,” he said.

“It was decided to support the Meat Board with the introduction of an additional levy.”

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