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Challenging year awaits agriculture

The agriculture sector survived a year of rising uncertainty in 2018, but with the national elections and the threat of drought looming, 2019 will be every bit as challenging. 

Dr Theo de Jager, president of the World Farmers’ Organisation last week said a year of big issues looms for agriculture, despite Namibian livestock and crop producers being optimistic that this year would be an exciting one for the sector. 
In Namibia and South Africa, politics will dominate the inhabitants’ discourse and destiny, especially in the run-up to the national elections, with the debate around land and expropriation likely to heat up as election day approaches.

Chairperson of the Namibian Agronomic Board Michael Iyambo says Namibia is set to register its highest production of white maize, wheat and mahangu in eight years with a total of 76 660 tonnes of the staple diet of most Namibians coming from home soils this season. 

This should result in stable maize product prices which are always good news for the consumer.
The 76 660 tonnes of white maize represent 60 percent of the total local domestic demand of 127 143 tonnes, meaning Namibia will have to import just 50 483 tonnes of white maize (40 percent of domestic demand) this year. 

Piet Gouws, president of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) told New Era it is expected that meat prices will remain stable, but expressed concerns that very late rains in South Africa could impact on fodder availability as Namibia imports all its fodder from South Africa. 

He says the situation could impact negatively on  weaner prices but he is not pessimistic at all about the meat industry. He says it is too early to predict what the impact will be of Karan Beef now actively participating in the weaner procurement programme in Namibia. 

For Namibian sheep farmers, it will be a make or break year. Government has promised to revise the current export scheme and the Meat Board of Namibia has put various proposals on the table to either replace or improve sheep exports. 

While Namibian crop farmers are looking forward to record harvests, Gouws says he is very worried about Namibia’s rangelands in general. “Our rangelands are very brittle after some five years of drought and rain will once again play a major role in the recovery of these rangelands,” he notes.

The Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) stressed that it will actively get involved in changing the agricultural policy so that growth takes place at farm level and an important part hereof is the development of a joint vision between all role players as well the establishment of the first ever Chamber of Agriculture at national level.

Research shows that for every N$1 invested in primary agriculture, the return is an advantage of between N$3 to N$4 for the country’s total economy. 

Yet in 2017, the primary agricultural sector contributed only 4,5 percent towards the total economy. These figures underline the urgent need for the agricultural sector to grow and this growth can only be sustainable if it starts at farm level.
Agriculture’s contribution can only grow if the number of animals, tonnes of grain, litres of milk and all agricultural produce which are marketed, increase. 

On the international front, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organis0ation has decided to launch a Decade of Family Farming in 2019.

One of the goals of this initiative is to counter the global phenomenon of corporatisation of primary production, where large companies farm huge tracts of land in competition with smaller family farmers, killing rural towns and knocking the smaller farmers out of the industry in the process.

Family farming is one of the most broad-based mechanisms in Namibia to create wealth where it is needed most: rural areas.

The other big event for agriculture in 2019 will be the Climakers Campaign, a farmer-driven agenda on climate change, which was launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.

De Jager was quoted as saying: “We need to convince politicians not to use our products as batons to fight each other when they disagree on issues that have nothing to do with agriculture.”

“To have the voices of farmers heard, we need strong farmers’ organisations, and broader involvement of individual farmers. The participation of each and every farmer is thus vital.”

 


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