Namibia’s lucrative beef market at risk
HILENI NEMBWAYA and NGHIINOMENWA ERASTUS
LIVESTOCK IMPORT … The declining number of cattle sold is threatening the country’s supply to the European, Chinese and American markets.
THE strategy Namibia has relied on for years to revive its cattle herd will take longer this time, risking the country losing its newly established export markets.
Marketing of cattle dropped by 49,49% during the first three quarters of 2020 in which 193 644 cattle were sold compared to 383 466 during the same period in 2019, Meat Board of Namibia statistics for end of September show.
“This compares unfavourably (by 41,08%) with the five-year average,” the board said.
The declining number of cattle sold is threatening the country’s supply to the European, Chinese and American markets.
However, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said during his tour of north communal areas Namibia might buy stock from Botswana while the country’s farmers grow their stock.
Namibia will need to import about 20 000 cattle to satisfy its beef export markets as local farmers cannot meet the high demand due to the effects of the prolonged drought.
The country has failed to prevent the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in the northern communal areas where farmers are holding large stocks of cattle.
The two countries entered a once-off agreement for Namibia to import live cattle from Botswana for a period of three months, however, it is still unclear when the imports will start.
Botswana and Namibia cattle have similar animal health standards and Botswana’s beef is also sought after globally.
Schlettwein said plans to import cattle from Botswana are at an advanced stage, but could not say how many cattle will be imported or how much the government will spend on the imports.
“We have access to export markets for this type of beef. China and European countries are some of our strongest and important markets. We also have access to the South African market and access to the domestic markets south of the cordon fence provided that the standards are upheld,” he said.
Schlettwein conceded that the country’s beef production is currently constrained because the drought had drastically reduced the national herd in both the NCAs and southern commercial areas.
“We have too few cattle and most farmers are restocking and they are not willing to sell as much as they can and that results in fewer cattle at the abattoirs,” he said.
Europe is currently Namibia’s best-paying beef market, hence the government is trying all avenues to safeguard that market, the minister said at Eenhana on Saturday.
He said Namibia is struggling to service its beef market in Europe, the United States and Norway due to an insufficient supply of cattle to local abattoirs.
By the end of September this year Namibia only managed to export 40 351 tonnes of beef from all its export abattoirs compared to 111 464 tonnes exported last year.
The minister added that Namibia is struggling to supply Europe, the USA and Norway and as a result the importation of cattle from Botswana is being allowed to satisfy the demand in the country’s foreign markets.
Over the past two years, Namibia experienced a devastating drought, which has severely affected livestock farming and the throughput to exporting abattiors.
Namibia became the second African country after South Africa to meet China’s stringent export conditions for bone-in beef last year.
The country is struggling to maintain certain levels of animals during drought due to the high cost of inputs (animal feed, and pharmaceutical products) due to its inability to produce and manufacture its own.
The latest Namibia Agricultural Union quarterly review indicated that if the country does not get enough rain, it will be a bumpy ride for livestock farmers as the prices of the main inputs in animal feed (yellow maize and soya bean) are rising fast due to high global demand and the unstable exchange rate.
The review also maintains that the cost of raising ready to slaughter cattle in the country and weaners has been raising, surpassing the income derived from the investment.
According to Meat Board data, auction prices for the first three quarters of 2020 strengthened by 43,13%, averaging N$33,25 per kg compared to the 2019 average of N$23,23.
Despite higher than average auction prices, live exports declined by 47,43%, suggesting a severe reduction in production as a result of the drought.