Namibian cattle prices shoot up
By Magreth Nunuhe
WINDHOEK – Namibian cattle have been fetching good prices at auctions since the beginning of the rainy season in late 2016, producing the best quality animals with the highest average record purchase price being N$41 per kilogramme – the highest price paid for an animal in the last few years.
“The quality is very good. We are now paying the highest prices in history. Since the good rainy season, we have been paying for A grade – the best quality – at N$41,40 per kilogramme, excluding bonuses,” revealed Jethro Kwenani, corporate communications officer at Meatco, adding that since the beginning of this year, the average price has been around N$37 per kilogramme.
This is higher than N$29,98 per kilogramme average purchase price reported during 2015/2016 period and 10 percent higher than the South African parity price.
Kwenani said that Meatco purchase prices were the most competitive after the good rains, but on the downside, Kwenani stressed that too many farmers were declining to sell their animals as they were restocking after the protracted drought Namibia faced in the past five years.
Meatco acts as a value-adding and marketing entity for Namibian cattle producers.
The severe drought in the country affected around 900,000 people with hordes of stock losses, especially in communal areas in the past few years. Namibia, which is a dry country, has been experiencing ravaging drought over the years, affecting communal areas and livelihoods of farmers.
Experts believe that the recent good rainfalls suggest that the agricultural sector will perform better this year than over the past two years when it contracted, but it will take a number of rainy seasons to refill Namibia’s dams and aquifers, with a further need to increase water storage infrastructure to cope with the growing water demand.
The Namibian rainy season started with a bang in October 2016 with rain falling in most parts of the country, bringing good harvest and better grazing for cattle farmers who mostly depend on agricultural produce for their livelihoods.
Jackson Hindjou, Okakarara Farmers’ Association secretary, said that weaners of between 100 to 240 kilogrammes were fetching around N$28 per kilogramme at auctions (around N$4,000 to N$6,000 per animal), while during the drought, they could only attract a price of around N$17 per kilogramme.
“Farmers are happy. The price is good,” he said.
Hitjii Tjihuiko, the association’s spokesperson and advisor also attested to the good prices the farmers were fetching at Meatco and other auctions.
“Selling through Meatco is proving very well – they are buying at good prices,” he said.
However, Tjihuiko did not rule out the possibility of selling directly to the South African market as the prices were also very competitive, although he was concerned about an increase of farmers who were selling of weaner calves, especially female weaners directly to the South African market.
He said that the more weaners flood that market, the less the demand would be for weaners from Namibia.
Meatco also registered its concern about the current high weaner price paid for by South African agents at auctions in Namibia, affecting the amount of live animals available for purchase by Meatco’s feedlots and other facilities, as well as the throughput of slaughter animals to abattoirs in the next two to three years.
“This trend has a negative impact on Meatco’s entire business value-chain,” said the corporation.
Sales of weaners have been ascribed to the good rains South Africa received in the past season, which created a bumper grain harvest, resulting in an oversupply of grain and a decrease in prices to feedlots.
Namibia Agricultural Union’s Harald Marggraff was equally content with the prices fetched at auctions, but said that corporations like Meatco must be in a position to pay better prices to withstand the competition against South Africa.
“Producers are price takers and will go for the highest price,” noted Marggraff.
Namibian cattle are reared in the veldt eating grass for most part of their lives and are raised using all-natural methods with no growth hormones or routine antibiotics used in their rearing, which is why the country’s beef attracts foreign markets as it has a competitive advantage and complies with international standards like that of the European Union.
Namibian red meat is exported to Norway, United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark and Italy.