Namibia: Troubled Sheep Industry Overhaul Coming

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Agriculture experts met this month to discuss, among other issues, ways of turning around the sheep industry.

Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) representatives and other stakeholders gathered at a full-day seminar organised by the Meat Board of Namibia in Windhoek last week.

The country’s sheep industry has been on its knees due to many years of drought, and the government’s devastating small stock marketing scheme.

Submissions were made by, among others, Gunther Ling, managing director of Hartlief, who runs the sheep export abattoir at Mariental, southern sheep farmer Nico Strauss, Anja Boshoff of the Meat Board and Cyprianus Khaiseb, a butcher.

It was decided at the seminar to establish policy certainty with primary producers because this will allow producers to reinvest in the industry and in turn create jobs.

Some of the recommendations were to get sheep production back on track, using incentives and other support to farmers, as well as ensuring free trade.

The delegates said a Namibian sheep export abattoir will find it difficult to be viable if exporting to South Africa only.

They added international markets offering exchange rate benefits are critical to enabling abattoirs in an unregulated market to gain a foothold in this value chain.

Other recommendations included finding solutions for the issue of unlocking underutilised land for increased production, and strategies to be better prepared for the next drought.

Agriforum’s upcoming edition will also report on this opportunity, which includes the future of the sheep scheme.

Discussions at the seminar included unlocking the potential of bush feed in Namibia.

The Debushing Advisory Services (DAS) had a stakeholder dialogue on the same day with the NAU, among others.

With the devastating drought of 2019, a surge in bush-based animal feed production occurred for both communal and commercial land tenure systems. According to DAS, despite this development, bottlenecks for large-scale and commercial use of bush-based fibre remain.

Among other factors, technical knowledge and insufficient research seem to be barriers for producers.

The main aim of the engagement was to look for the opportunities and challenges experienced at policy-making level for this innovative value chain.

The NAU’s position on the matter remains that the utilisation of bush for animal feed was key to surviving the damaging drought of 2019.

Although the potential for bush feed in Namibia exists, rigorous and extensive research needs to be the first key to unlock potential.

The research should look at how bush feed can be economically viable for farmers and which bush levels to maintain for different animals.

Tests on the digestibility of different bush, and feedlot tests to look at different ratios and potential growth should also be conducted.

Participants shared thoughts and ideas, and based on the inputs, DAS will compile a bush-feed roadmap to pave the way forward.

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