Namibia is among 50 African countries that signed the framework for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) primarily to create a single continental market for goods and services with free and unfettered movement of people and investments among African states.
The continental trade accord will boost trade and open up new markets to all signatories of AfCFTA, as they will have easy access to the world’s second largest continent and second most populous continent with a population of 1.2 billion - a vast market by any metric.
If we factor into the intra-Africa trade, vis-à-vis AfCFTA, the plight of drought-hit Northern Communal Farmers (NCAs), enduring the worst drought on record, we might partially resolve this conundrum of lack of market access by this communal demographic that has too many cattle for its own good.
It is no secret, livestock farmers in NCAs north of the veterinary cordon fence have for ages not substantially nor significantly reaped from the economic benefits being enjoyed by commercial farmers who have unhindered access to the EU, and of late the lucrative Chinese and US, markets.
NCAs are stuck with excessively too many cattle that communal farmers cannot feed because there is very little or no grazing because of the drought and overgrazing in these poorly managed areas. Moreover, destocking such huge numbers of cattle during drought has its own challenges and limitations.
Before Meatco had a recent change of heart, the closure of its abattoirs in Zambezi, Kavango and Oshakati dealt NCA farmers a debilitating blow considering the majority of our people rely on cattle farming for their bread-and-butter. The lack of market access has been the main cry among this struggling lot and the drought only exponentially compounded their misery and economic hardships.
Our government should look beyond the political rhetoric and unlock and harness the significant potential offered by intra-Africa trade through AfCFTA that could be used as a passport to enable NCAs access markets in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola and beyond to sell their cattle.
We understand the DRC is quite keen on Namibian beef. Angola, Mozambique and possibly Zambia and other potential markets also seem to have an appetite for Namibian beef from the NCAs.
So, Namibia should not only help commercial farmers to access the EU, Chinese and US markets but it should also, as a matter of urgency, explore the possibility of exporting beef sourced from NCAs to other African countries, some of which rely on distant suppliers in South America like Argentina and Brazil.
Since safety and quality is paramount in any continental trade, we should ensure NCA farmers are capacitated to produce premium beef and the abattoirs in those areas process quality beef and these facilities upgraded to ensure they do not compromise on any requisites for such meat.
Namibia cannot afford to lose on the benefits offered by intra-Africa trade and it should not lag behind communal beef farmers in Botswana, who are also eying lucrative African markets.
2019-08-16 08:08:30 6 days ago