Cattle farmers are reaping huge benefits from government’s decision to impose a ban on the import and transit of cloven-hoofed animals and their products from South Africa following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
According to the Meat Board of Namibia, the government move through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has caused the prices of slaughter ready cattle increasing by between N$5-7/ kilogram to around N$25/kg.
“It presents a nice opportunity for farmers and the price increase that we have witnessed is reflective of that,” Meat Board of Namibia Chief Marketing Officer, Desmond Cloete said.
He said the ban had also resulted in demand for local beef and this was reflective in the price surge.
“Obviously if there is an increase, it reflects in the price,” Cloete said.
Quizzed if local farmers could meet the demand for local beef and improve on quality to meet the needs of local retailers who previously only sold imported beef from South Africa, Meat Board of Namibia Chief Marketing Officer said capacity and quality existed.
“We have the capacity to meet the increased demand and our beef is one of the best in Africa. As you know these retailers were mainly using brands from South Africa but now it presents an opportunity for them to create relationships with local producers,” he said.
Cloete said the favorable price increase on the local market could also see some farmers now opting to grow their cattle than export them as weaners to South Africa.
“The reason why we export weaners is because farmers get a good price without having to take care of the animal for long but now that the returns are better, farmers may start to keep cattle longer,” he said.
“If the returns are better when the animals grow, then the farmer will keep it for longer. The foot and mouth outbreak present an opportunity and the benefits can only be realized if it last longer.”
He said Meatco, the country’s biggest meat processor was also offering favorable market prices for farmers cattle.
“Prices currently offered by Meatco are actually more attractive than in South Africa,” he said.
According to Meatco, Namibia livestock on the hoof exports have increased in previous year, with a total of 315 198 cattle leaving the country in 2017 compared to 164 220 in 2016.
South Africa in January confirmed the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), in Vhembe district, in the northern Limpopo province.
The outbreak prompted the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to lift the FMD-free status that the country has enjoyed since 2014, allowing it to boost red meat exports.
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and eSwatini are among the countries that have outlawed imports of South African red meat.
The highly contagious viral disease, which causes lesions and lameness, has so far infected about 50 heads of cattle and the affected area has been placed under quarantine.
South Africa is a net exporter of chilled and frozen beef and produces around N$2 billion worth of exports in red meats annually, with agriculture being one of the highest contributors to GDP.
According to a 2017 report by South Africa’s Red Meat Producers Organisation, if the country lost its foot and mouth disease-free status, the economy would lose about N$6 billion a year.