15 May 2019

Namibia: Uphill Task for Livestock Farmers

FARMERS will have to pay more to sustain their livestock until the next rainy season, the Namibia Agricultural Union said yesterday.

In a statement, the NAU said the agri-inflation rate that has increased by 4,4% year-on-year has driven the costs of inputs up.

The agri-inflation rate is the average increase in the basket of inputs used in livestock and crop production.

The cost of maintaining livestock went up because of the price of feeds which increased by 8,5% during the first three months of this year.

The total cost of capital projects around the farms increased by 6,2%, compared to the same period last year, while 6,5% of the cost of the inputs was pushed up by the price of fuel.

For the farmers who are planning to destock to evade the effects of the drought, the report indicates that weaner prices have dropped by 22,6%.

This means an ox production system is currently more profitable than weaner production.

However, the slaughter price increased by 14,7% at the end of the first quarter, with Meatco keeping its price stable despite overall cattle prices dropping, the NAU indicated.

They also showed that with the livestock mortality rate increasing, farmers are expected to destock to prevent financial losses.

Some farmers are destocking more than they did in 2018, as shown by the number of lean cows that were being auctioned.

A total of 79 334 cattle were auctioned, and of that number, about 21,4% were cows.

The sale of cows at auctions increased by about 56,4% this year, compared to last year.

A lack of grazing and fodder in some areas led to the increased sale of lean cows.

Farmers auctioned 3 538 lean cows in the first quarter of 2018, and 7 941 lean cows in the first quarter of 2019. This means the marketing of lean cows grew by 124,4%.

An increase in the sale of cows reduces the future reproductive capacity of the cattle industry, which means that farmers will struggle to restock next year.

The cost of feed is not only hitting hard on the beef farmers, but also the dairy farmers, whose total expenses increased by 23% year-on-year. The feed costs contributed 32,8% of the overall increase in dairy farming.

However, there was no change in farm-gate prices of milk, the union continued.

Furthermore, the dairy industry is in a predicament, and support to this industry is required. Otherwise, if the current trend persists, jobs will be lost, and this will have a negative impact on the economy at large.

The NAU statement also confirmed last week's report by the Namibia Agronomic Board that the country will face a shortage of white maize in the local market throughout the 2019/20 season, given that the monthly production tonnage is below the average monthly domestic demand by millers of at least 14 500 tonnes.

This is because the white maize sector anticipates a harvest of about 35 530 tonnes of white maize, which will be 37% less than the 2018/19 harvest.

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