Desie Heita WINDHOEK – In a drastic step that could restore belief and fortitude among farmers north of the veterinary cordon fence, government is compelling all institutions it owns in those areas to procure their goods from state-owned abattoirs reopened across various northern towns. The infusion of life into these abattoirs is likely to pump millions of dollars into the pockets of livestock farmers north of the veterinary cordon fence. Not only is the government building abattoirs, auction kraals and meat processing plants, but it is also seeking ways to compel all its institutions in the northern regions to procure their protein requirements from these facilities. That request is deliberate, said agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb, seeing that unlike the communal farmers south of the veterinary cordon fence, the beef produced by farmers in the northern communal areas struggle to enter foreign markets. Hence, a programme has been put in place “to use government purchasing power to support local commodity value chains in the agriculture sector, one of which is beef, [and] northern communal areas have been deliberately singled out as a beneficiary”, said !Naruseb. The last time livestock farmers in the northern communal areas made a good sale out of their cattle was in 2014. They had sold 13,221 cattle at a time the average price per kilogramme was good. The estimated value is N$66.9 million. However, the following years the drought hit very hard, and eventually the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease led to the enforcement of the veterinary cordon fence. Even though in 2015 Meatco reported one of its best ever average prices, the uptake from the northern communal farmers had decreased dramatically. The withdrawal of Meatco from running the abattoirs at Oshakati and Katima Mulilo in 2016 essentially sealed the farmers’ fate. Last year though, northern farmers only managed to sell 750 cattle to Meatco, through its mobile slaughter truck, which at an average price of N$34,06 per kilogramme earned them a mere estimated figure of about N$5.2 million. However, hope arrived this week with the opening of the abattoir in Outapi, while the one in Eenhana is set for end of July and the opening of the meat processing facilities in Ongwediva is expected later this year. Construction is ongoing for Rundu’s meat processing facility and Bukalo would be next to have one. “The upliftment of cattle farmers in the northern communal areas is dependent on their participation in the formal economy. The operations of the three facilities under this project are expected to be linked, thereby enhancing the formal livestock and meat industry in the northern communal areas,” said !Naruseb when he opened the Outapi abattoir this week. Farmers in the northern regions have never had it easy, with very little infrastructural support that disadvantage them in competing with other communal farmers south of the veterinary cordon fence. Compounding that has been the siege of persistent droughts, the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that necessitated the closure of the veterinary cordon fence in 2015, and eventually the closure of Meatco-run abattoirs at Oshakati and Katima Mulilo in 2016 essentially sealed the farmers’ fate. Government is now addressing the cries for structural support by rolling out auction kraals at Omuntele, Onyuulaye, Oushake, Omauni, Oshifo, Ompundja, Opuwo, Nepara, Lusese and Ncaute. Oshakati now has a slaughter capacity of around 110 cattle per day, while Katima Mulilo has a slaughter capacity of 70 cattle per day. The Rundu abattoir, which is still under construction, will have a slaughter capacity of 40 cattle per day and slaughter capacity of 120 small stock per day. There are plans to upgrade the Opuwo slaughterhouse and construct a meat-processing facility at Bukalo in Zambezi Region. “All these facilities are either currently being operated, or will be operated, by private sector operators,” said !Naruseb. The new operators of the abattoirs were asked to “devise strategies to support the farmers and make it attractive for farmers to market their animals, by developing rewarding markets, both with local distributors and export markets in neighbouring countries”. Government last year received funding of 20 million euros, about N$306 million at current exchange rate, from the European Union to specifically address the improvement of the entire value chain, starting from livestock production to the processing of meat and other animal products. The funding was meant to help boost opportunities for northern communal area farmers to sell their animals and animal products to local, national, regional and international markets.
2018-06-11 09:10:25 3 months ago