FARMERS and various other stakeholders are calling for a review of the National Drought Policy and Strategy of 1997 to assist the agricultural sector during and after droughts.
A review of this policy and strategy by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform was strongly recomended during a two-day livestock industry seminar.
The seminar was organised by the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN) at the end of the first quarter, and presented to the Meat Board Livestock Marketing Committee.
Industry players indicated the country has observed recurrent droughts since 2013, which climaxed in 2019, while the drought policy has been unable to address shortcomings faced by the sector and its market.
"After recurrent droughts since 2013 it is evident the policy in its current form does not address the issues of climate change, restocking after a severe drought, and the establishment of a drought fund to mitigate the impact of droughts," they said.
Considering Namibia's climate, a positive correlation between rainfall and livestock production exists, farmers said.
The seminar, however, found "with skewed policies and zero implementation of good policies, a recipe for disaster has been created".
In 2016 it was reported that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), as it was titled at the time, was in the process of reviewing the national drought policy and strategy.
The process was expected to be finalised by the end of the 2017/18 financial year.
Furthermore, the then MAWF was to approach the Cabinet to establish a drought fund, because it was found during previous droughts it takes the Office of the Prime Minister time to process payments related to drought and other disasters.
The seminar highlighted the uncertainty in the market due to worsening climate conditions, unproductive restrictions and the recent impact of Covid-19 as the biggest challenges.
Stakeholders proposed that measures taken should improve service delivery along the value chain, starting with an improved budget allocation to the agriculture sector at national level.
They reminded the government it is a signatory to the Malabo Convention, which requires that around 10% of the national budget be allocated to agriculture.
The seminar calls for an increased allocation to national extension services, agriculture research and project management.
"This will ensure that with appropriate research relevant farming techniques could be developed and implemented to improve production at primary level," the seminar proposed.
The ministry was unfortunate to be among those receiving the lowest allocation for the current financial year, involving N$1,3 billion - even less than what the Ministry of Public Enterprises received.
Stakeholders also threw some punches at the government for not reviewing its current resettlement model, saying this has caused declining sheep production.
The seminar advised improving efficiency at export abattoirs would not only be profitable for the country, but would also improve the sector's competitiveness globally.
"This requires that facilities should operate at their highest point of effectiveness by reducing inefficiency (cost) of operations," they said.
"The introduction of a smallstock scheme coupled with drought, predation and unproductive resettlement farms directly attributed to the decline in sheep production," stakeholders argued.
They proposed incentive packages and support to restore the production environment - especially at primary level.
Role players said the operationalisation of Namibia Census of Agriculture abattoirs, which have been without a formal market since 2015, is crucial.
The Directorate of Veterinary Services has approved the standard operating procedures to implement a commodity-based trade approach that will ensure beef produced in the Zambezi region could be moved south of the veterinary cordon fence (redline) and/or regionally in the Southern African Development Community.
The seminar also emphasised the implementation of the directive that compels offices, ministries and agencies to procure local fresh produce and meat, saying it should not be underestimated.
Long-term statistics clearly underscored the fact that the Namibian livestock industry is at a crossroads and urgently requires swift remedial intervention at national level to aid the N$3 billion industry.
The latest MBN statistics show the effect of the 2019 drought on livestock marketing in 2020.
On a year-to-year basis ending July 2020, the total marketing of cattle decreased by 39%, with export abattoirs slaughtering 56% fewer cattle, while live cattle exports (mainly weaners), fell by 50%.
In terms of sheep marketing, 56% fewer sheep were marketed in the last 12-month period up to July this year.
Sheep export abattoirs slaughtered 84% fewer sheep, while live sheep exports declined by 52% on a year-on-year basis ending July 2020.
The total marketing of goats is 74% less on a year-to-year basis ending July 2020, owing not so much to the drought but to Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings and travelling to South Africa.
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