High weaner prices: blessing or curse?

Windhoek-The current high weaner price paid for by South African agents at auctions locally has a negative impact on the entire business value-chain of Namibia's biggest slaughtering houses.

This trend continues to affect the amount of live animals (raw material) available for purchase by Meatco's feedlots and other facilities, as well as on the throughput of slaughter animals to abattoirs in the next two to three years.

The sales can be ascribed to the good rains South Africa received in the past rainy season which created a bumper grain harvest, resulting in an oversupply that brought about a decrease in prices. Similarly, in Namibia this led to an increase in the demand for weaners at the South African feedlots, which was caused by the recurring drought experienced regionally.

Undamuje Hambira, communication officer of Meatco, says because of the favourable conditions in South Africa, the feedlots are now filling the current gap with weaners by sourcing them from Namibian farmers at prices that can sustain and revive that cattle industry.

Two critical questions arise from this situation, farmers and the Namibian beef industry want to know how will this trend ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector going forward, and what will encourage the average farmer to keep his/her weaners and raise them into slaughter-ready cattle?

Abrie Van Wyk, the manager of commercial livestock procurement of Meatco, says on a short-term basis Meatco is under pressure to purchase weaners due to the high prices for specific younger weight categories predominately offered by the South African feedlots.

Similarly, this trend affects Meatco in the long-term because producers who are currently marketing their weaners in return for these high prices, are now depleting the animal (weaner) numbers that should be slaughtered through the abattoir in 2019.

Additionally, for the Namibian farmer to buy these weaners at the present high purchase price and raise them until oxen level, continues to be less financially beneficial due to the negative implications it poses on production systems at this stage, Van Wyk adds.

The biggest challenge for Namibia at the moment is the lack of producing grain/fodder in bulk to retain weaners exported to South Africa, Goliath Tujendapi, the Meat Board of Namibia's manger: Trade and Strategic Marketing, says. Through this, between 160,000 and 200,000 weaners continue to be exported to that market every year.

This excessive export of weaners from Namibia to South Africa, which currently stands at 61%, also transfers raw materials and potential workforce into that economy thus affecting the local economic growth.

As a result, the Meat Board of Namibia as a statutory body that facilitates exports in Namibia, constantly engages with government to initiate green scheme projects for the local production of grain, which will ensure that slaughter houses and feedlots continue to have sufficient weaners that can be raised into slaughter-ready cattle to sustain the meat industry, Tujendapi adds.

Only through government and the Meat Board's efforts to establish grain production schemes locally, can the meat industry's sustainability be secured.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia