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Milk taps run dry as Hardap irrigation projects struggle

2019-07-23  Staff Reporter

Milk taps run dry as Hardap irrigation projects struggle

Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK – The latest Bank of Namibia (BoN) report and last week’s AGM of the Dairy Producers Association (DPA) held on the farm of the chairperson, Kokkie Adriaanse, near Mariental, as well as an urgent residents’ meeting with President Hage Geingob in the town’s community hall, drove home the critical current situation of the region’s dairy and crop farming industries. 

They also face the prospects of the Hardap Dam’s levels dropping so low by December that it will be impossible to deliver water to the Hardap irrigation projects that supply lucerne for dairy cows and white maize as staple diet for most Namibians.

Milk production declined year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter by 4.7 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, to 5.6 million litres during the first quarter of 2019, the BoN quarterly report reveals. In total milk production is more than two percent lower this year than in 2018, according to managing director of Namibia Dairies, Günther Ling.

The governor of the Hardap Region, Esmé Isaak, made it clear at last week’s urgent meeting with President Geingob that such a water crisis will mean people losing their jobs in the agricultural sector.
Adriaanse pointed out that the few dairy producers left in the country are finding themselves in an economic squeeze where high production and feeding costs result in them farming without profits.
Isaak promised that her office will employ unemployed youth to cut down reeds and prosopis trees in and around the mouth of the Fish River to supply cheaper fodder for animals.

The decline in milk production was due to poor rainfall received this year which resulted in unfavourable grazing conditions and reduced availability of animal feeds.  The decreased production puts further pressure on the local industry as it was reported recently that some seven million litres of dairy per annum has entered Namibia undeclared over the last six years. 

The dairy industry is highly dependent on feed to increase milk production and for 2018 feed costs increased by 72.9 percent, and on top of that producers had two price cuts, which made dairy producers more vulnerable. 

However, before the end of 2018, dairy producers received a 10 cents per litre increase, causing the income value to increase by 0.8 percent. A study illustrated the dire situation of the dairy industry, and on top of that, the dairy Superfarm of the Ohlthaver & List Group could face being shut down due to the low water levels of the Hardap Dam, now standing at only 19 percent.

A Dairy Producers Association (DPA) study by Dataspank in collaboration with the Namibian Trade Forum (NTF) shows that Namibia’s total annual milk production is 24 million litres, which South African producers produce every three days. 

Whereas Namibia’s total dairy population is 3 000 cattle, some individual milk producers in South Africa have 3 000 cows per stable. Not only does the local industry have to compete with cheap imports from SA, but the study pointed out that some seven million litres of dairy entered the country undeclared over the six years.  The study used the South African figures to demonstrate that it is simply not possible for Namibia to compete against global markets. Nevertheless, the dairy industry in Namibia is seen as a sector of strategic importance for the government in terms of employment, industrialisation and growth. 

At last week’s meeting in Mariental, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila announced that government – thanks to local and international donors – has already secured N$300 million of the promised N$573 million for drought aid.  

2019-07-23  Staff Reporter

Tags: Hardap
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