• February 20th, 2020

Dairy industry in dire straits, dam levels low and rangelands devastated by 2019 drought

Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK ‑ The current low level of water in the Hardap Dam is hindering irrigation and affecting fodder like lucerne production, which is a very important component in dairy production for optimal milk quantities. 

Additionally, the small industry has no government support leaving it vulnerable and barely able to compete with large South African dairy industries, says agricultural economist, Bertha Ijambo.
Comparing the first quarter of 2018 prices to 2019 prices, feed costs increased by 32.8 percent year-on-year, fuel prices increased by 4.5 percent and labour increased by 3.6 percent, and all these expensive items resulted in total expenses to increase by 23.0 percent.

“Whereas, there was no change in farm-gate prices of milk. Looking at the past 12 years, the price-cost squeeze of dairy producers stood at 0.98 percent per annum. High increases in total expenses accompanied by minimal increases or no changes in farm-gate prices negatively affect producer income. The Namibian dairy industry is in a predicament and support to this industry is required. Otherwise, if the current trend persists, jobs will be lost and this will have a negative impact on the economy at large,” she observes. Regarding the agronomic industry, she points out that wheat is a winter crop produced under irrigation. According to AMTA, during the 2018/2019 season, farmers marketed 7 626 tonnes of wheat from October 2018 to February 2019.

More than half (i.e. 4 369 tonnes) of the total marketed wheat came from areas in the south, whereas 2 359 tonnes (30.9 percent) came from Kavango, and 898 tonnes (11.8 percent) came from Karstland (Maize Triangle). White maize is produced under rain-fed cultivation and irrigation. 

In the 2018 season, 56 421 tonnes of white maize was marketed from May to December 2018. Of the total white maize marketed during the 2018/2019 period, 32 598 tonnes (57.8 percent) was from irrigated areas, and 23 823 tonnes (42.2 percent) was from rain-fed areas, she observes.

“For the 2019/2020 season, the white maize sector anticipates a harvest of about 35 530 ton of white maize, which will be 37 percent less of the 2018/2019 harvest. The decrease in production is attributable to crop failure and lack of planting due to poor rains. It is unanticipated that there will be a shortage of white maize in the local market throughout 2019/2020 season, given that the monthly production tonnage is below the average monthly domestic demand by millers of at least 14 500 tonnes (according to AMTA’s report).”

Due to a lack of rainfall, dam levels in Namibia have decreased. For example, last season the Hardap Dam was 47.2 percent of full capacity, by May 2019 the dam stood at 22.4 percent of full capacity. Both the Mariental community and irrigation farms surrounding the Hardap Dam use water from the dam.

“An estimated monthly water usage from the Hardap Dam is two percent per month, and with the current status quo the dam will only be able to supply water for less than a year. This is likely to affect government irrigation projects, the Mariental community as well as different farms that rely on the dam as a source of water supply, thus leading to more diminishing agricultural produce, job losses and a negative influence on the Mariental economy,” she notes.
She says the vegetative condition of 92 percent of all hectares of land in Namibia is below normal, while a staggering 64 percent of all land has a condition less than 20 percent of the norm.

“In order to ease pressure on the available vegetation farmers are urged to urgently destock to prevent financial losses,” she concludes. 

Staff Reporter
2019-05-21 10:25:26 | 8 months ago

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