Katima Mulilo — Livestock farmers in the Zambezi Region have questioned government's advice to communal farmers to take necessary precautions which include selling off their livestock while they are still in good condition as a mitigation against the looming drought - they say there is no market.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa is on record having said farmers in Zambezi should destock but the affected farmers some of whom have large herds running into several hundreds of cattle say this is impossible because there is no commercial market.
Since 2015, Meatco - that used to buy cattle from communal farmers in commercial quantities - closed its abattoir at Katima Mulilo and Oshakati on grounds it had losses of N$43 million.
Cattle farmers in Zambezi are saying destocking on a slaughter basis is unsustainable and will not be able to absorb the large quantities of cattle that could be offloaded into that market.
They also critiqued the rationale behind recent appeals to destock if government has failed to provide them with an alternative market such as selling their slaughtered animals to school hostels, hospitals, prisons and other institutions and yet it expects them to 'destock."
"In my opinion that is an understatement. People cannot be told to reduce their livestock if there is a delay from government to prepare a market for them, how will they reduce it? Should they start slaughtering them to eat?" questioned the Chairperson of Likwama Farmers' Union Alfred Chilinda.
Chilinda who is also a founding member of Zambezi Meat Cooperation (Zamco) which won the tender to re-open the Katima Abattoir further stated that this will only be possible (reducing their herds) if government hastens the commissioning of the market.
He stated Zamco has done all it could towards the re-opening of the Katima Abattoir but government has been slugging in meeting them halfway. "Zamco and Zambezi Livestock Producer's Cooperative have done their part... We have established the administration structure, we have made contributions, the business plan was done, but we need at least N$40 million to kick-start our operations, and we need government to meet us halfway and give us at least N$20 million," said Chilinda.
His sentiments were also shared by another prominent cattle farmer in the region and the chairperson of Zamco Robert Mapenzi, who stated that the advice to sell their livestock is an "excellent one, but the government should create a market where farmers can sell their livestock."
He also reiterated that Zamco is ready to take the forefront but they are faced with various challenges where they need government to chip in. He said these challenges include the delay by government to renovate the abattoir and the quarantine.