Farmers’ unions unite in fight against drought with emergency action plan
WINDHOEK - Namibia’s leading farmers’ unions are requesting an urgent meeting with agricultural minister Alpheus !Naruseb this week to inform him of the severity of the 2019 drought after two of the unions compiled an emergency action plan last Friday to reduce the impact of the drought, already a national crisis.
The Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers’ Union (NECFU) and the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) say in a joint statement that the ultimate goal is to have the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) also present at the meeting with the minister to provide initial proposals on how to mitigate the impact of the drought. According to the action plan, the agricultural ministry and the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN) will urgently plead for the removal of all policies restricting the export of livestock to minimise financial and livestock losses. The unions will also ask the government for an emergency fund to help with the implementation of a marketing incentive scheme to encourage farmers to sell their livestock to reduce the impact on natural rangelands.
“Due to the outbreak of FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) in SA, no hay or silage can be imported to Namibia as part of the duty of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) to protect Namibia from contamination. However, farmers are appealing to government to look into to the seriousness of the drought, because a serious need exists to import especially lucerne hay from South Africa. Discussions have taken place with the DVS and various solutions are currently being investigated to find solutions that will have minimum risk effects,” reads the statement.
The Biosafety Act, which stipulates that no maize containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be imported before an application is made to the Biosafety Council, comes into force as from February 6. Therefore, any farmer who needs to import maize containing GMOs from South Africa to feed their livestock will have to undergo the same application procedure as with millers and feed manufacturers. The unions are requesting that the National Council for Research, Science & Technology (NCRST) urgently exempt farmers from this Act and its procedures thereof.
The current slaughter cattle price at Meatco was not reduced, and C-grade slaughter cattle prices increased last month, which is highly appreciated and will further improve the trust relationship between producers and Meatco (which is dearly needed). Meatco has been requested to provide farmers with a three-month price strategy to help farmers make informed decisions on whether to fatten animals or not based on the prices availed to them.
Most of the livestock currently in the veld is not in a slaughtering condition. However, to encourage farmers to invest in additional feed to fatten the animals before marketing, it is suggested that abattoirs come to the aid of farmers by fixing the price for the next 3-4 months. This will stimulate and build trust along the value chain, and ensure the sustainability of the industry in the future. Another option would be for feedlots to buy livestock now and pay farmers only after three months, and/or possibly financing the feed, to curb cash flow challenges.
Currently, energy concentrates to fatten livestock are sourced from Zambia and South Africa. The availability of different commodities is currently being investigated to provide farmers with affordable solutions.
The unions say advise on the use of bush as fodder during drought is already available, and farmers are urged to explore such opportunities
Financial institutions are requested to implement assistance measures to help their clients survive the cash flow challenges resulting from drought. Such measures could include the postponement of payments of loans for this year, and subsidised loans to survive the effect of the drought.
To date, no normal or above normal rainfall has been reported anywhere in the country. Very little excess hay is available on the market while the dry spells since 2013 have depleted the growth reserves of the rangelands, as well as carry-over fodder on the veld. The outbreak of FMD in South Africa resulted in a drop of ±20% in the producer price of weaner calves and sheep in January 2019, compared to December 2018.
Farmers, therefore, need to reduce their herds as quickly as possible, but at significantly lower prices.
The rainfall forecast for the rest of the season looks bleak.
New Era Reporter
2019-02-05 11:17:56 15 days ago