Millions of dollars could flow into the coffers of emerging local farmers if the ambitious plan of exporting cattle on the hoof to Angola comes to fruition.
The Omaheke Regional Council is on the brink of signing an agreement with Angola's Cuando Cubango province for what could be one of the most lucrative cross-border meat trade deals Namibia has ever seen. The proposed agreement is to export cattle on the hoof as well as processed meat products to Angola. Governor of the Omaheke Region, Festus Ueitele, confirmed the plan to New Era yesterday.
But the Namibian/Angolan Housing Institution (NAAHI) founder Jose Oliveira says trade has started even though the agreement is still to be finalised.
Last weekend the first 100 cows from the Omaheke Region were loaded in Gobabis on their way to Angola. "This first consignment of Namibian cattle must be seen as a symbolic gesture of big things to come," said Oliveira.
Ueitele said farmers' consortiums from the Cuando Cubango region in Angola have expressed huge interest in buying Namibian cattle and processed meat products. Ueitele says two abattoirs - the Gobabis Abattoir and the Witvlei Meat Abattoir - have already been approached to slaughter animals to satisfy the demands of Angolan importers.
"I have received an invitation from the governor of the Lubango province, General Higino Carneiro, to visit him in November to discuss the details of the proposed long-term plan and hopefully sign the agreement that could boost our meat industry, create hundreds of jobs and contribute on a big scale to the [economy] by adding value to our export products," said Ueitele.
Oliviera said Namibia has exported cattle to the tune of 200 000 and more per annum to South Africa which already is a big cattle-producing country, while Angola is in much more need of good breeding stock and decent meat products.
"We are hammering out the details of a sustainable, long-term export trade that will be in the best interest of both countries. We will sell our animals and meat products at respectable prices, and the Angolans are prepared to pay these prices because of the quality they get and the knowledge that they will improve vastly on their breeding stock. The time has come to open up other markets, and the Cuando Cubango province proved to be the ideal gateway for Namibian cattle and processed meat products into Angola. I cannot disclose figures at this stage, but I can tell you we are talking of mega bucks," he said.
Oliveira stressed that the combined Omaheke/NAAHI initiative is not some fly-by-night scheme. "Much hard work has gone into this agreement, and it carries the full back-up of the Angolan government."
Ueitele said a delegation from his office and the NAAHI will set up an appointment with the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, soon to discuss the plan in detail and disclose figures and numbers. He said the minister has always had a strong view on bilateral trade, and expressed the hope that Mutorwa would listen with an open ear when they sit around the table.
Permanent Secretary of the the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Joseph Iita, yesterday said he was looking forward to be informed of such a meeting with the minister, saying no comment would be forthcoming from the ministry until such a meeting had taken place and all the cards were on the table.
"I am so confident that this agreement will be signed that I have opened all communication channels to inform the Omaheke farmers to get their cattle into the best shape possible in anticipation of the outcome of my visit to Angola. Farmers in the region who planned in advance for tough times like the current drought still have animals in good to very good shape. If we receive some decent rains within the next week or two, it will be a huge bonus," Ueitele says.
Ueitele is pushing for the trade agreement to be put into action before the end of the year. "We are now in the process of finalising the details of the agreement, and once that has been discussed with the Angolans, we will approach the minister regarding export policies and additional requirements. The Angolans have indicated that they are interested in big volumes of cattle on the hoof as well as various fresh meat products," he says.