26 July 2012

Namibia: Dairy Farmers Accuse Govt of Indifference

Photo: Fortune.
Seid Yemer was heading to home from shola market with his sheep herds on Thursday night.

Article Views (non — Milk producers are accusing the government of being indifferent to their plight, as the dairy industry struggles to survive in the face of stiff competition against cheap foreign imports.

Local dairy producers are unhappy about the current prices of raw milk and have consulted far and wide with various stakeholders and researchers to come to their rescue with better prices.

According to the chairman of the Dairy Producers Association (DPA), Kokkie Adriaanse, the association has for very long urged government to develop and adopt a policy framework that would level the playing field on the import or dumping of subsidised dairy products.

Adriaanse said if no urgent solution is found then the shrinking of the Namibian dairy industry and a significant loss of jobs is inevitable. "Namibian dairy producers demand fair trade and a level playing field," he said.

Producers say Namibia is the only country in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) that has fully deregulated its dairy sector and has theoretically become part of the South African dairy market as no restrictions of trade between the two countries exist at this moment in time, making it a single free market

According to Adriaanse, the "impact of the closure of dairy farms will certainly have an impact on the rural areas regarding investment, job creation, poverty and contribution to urbanisation" .

"We are talking about new prices. We have come nowhere with government in our search for a solution to the industry's problems," said Adriaanse during the producers' meeting held on Monday this week at Mariental.

"There is no reaction on our requests," said the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU) president Ryno van der Merwe.

"The longer government sits on our proposals or not react to them, the longer the industry will suffer. We need protection on the border for the dairy industry," NAU manager Sakey Coetzee added.

Concerns among farmers earlier this year were that the dairy industry would go under by April, unless drastic measures were taken to save the industry, since it cannot survive the competition from cheap South African dairy products flooding the local market.

In an effort to save the industry from imminent collapse, Namibia Dairies, the largest single supplier of dairy products in the country, recently took up the logistical responsibility of transporting raw milk from producers' farms to its dairy factory at Mariental.

Previously, farmers had to deliver their own milk consignments to Namibia Dairies and received a gate price per litre on the spot for the raw milk delivered.

The Namibia Dairy Producers Association (DPA) says it is relieved by the gesture from Namibia Dairies, but the industry still faces a crisis and accuses government of failing to pay attention to numerous requests, studies and proposals from the industry.

Namibia Dairies owns a high-tech production plant for long-life or Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) milk in Windhoek. The company also owns a state-of-the art dairy farm - the !Aimab Superfarm at Mariental, which is one of the most modern dairy farms in the world.

CEO of the !Aimab Superfarm, Hubertus Hamm, told New Era that the company bought two new tankers that will fetch the raw milk from the farms and deliver it to the factory.

At the Monday meeting the DPA discussed profitability of the dairy industry and possibilities to save further costs to ensure the survival of this industry.

Discussions at the Monday meeting centred around the high costs of transport and animal feed experienced by Namibian dairy producers, while the country allows the continuous dumping of cheap dairy products and subsidised products from outside the borders.

Namibia currently has 17 dairy producers, with approximately 2 920 cows and the sector employs 211 workers, producing an average of 1,7 million litres of milk per month.

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