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Namibia: Sheep production figures drop due to drought

A serious drought hampered sheep production in Namibia since 2013. There was no grazing and farmers had to sell 50% of their livestock to survive. Luckily, since the beginning of January 2021, good rains fell in Namibia and farmers are building up their livestock numbers again.

Sheep production showed a shocking decrease in the last two decades according to Jako van Wyk, Vice Chairman of the Livestock Producers’ Organisation of Namibia and a livestock farmer himself.

“This is mainly because of the intervention from the government and the drought. Since 2004, the government set a quota system on the export of live sheep to South Africa. For every one sheep that is slaughtered in Namibia, one may be exported. For a time, the quota even allowed only one sheep to be exported for every six sheep slaughtered locally.

The cattle and sheep production value dropped by 33 and 42,8%, respectively, while the goat production value for 2020 was reduced by 13,9%, according to the Namibian Agricultural Union’s fourth quarter agri-review 2020 report. Bertha Ljambo, Agricultural Economist of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) added that due to the drought, major destocking took place in 2019, leading to a large number of livestock being marketed.

“In 2020, farmers moved into a herd rebuilding phase meaning fewer livestock were marketed, hence, a drop in the 2019 and 2020 marketing figures,” she added.

Many farmers changed from sheep to game or cattle farming, although ewes can lamb every year or two times in three years, and lambs can be marketed at ten months of age. Therefore, sheep producers are able to recover faster than cattle producers after a drought.

The NAU entered into discussions with the government last year to prevent the agricultural industry from coming to a standstill because of COVID and to ensure that auctions could still go on. The Swakara sheep industry also showed a decline. This is because of auctions that are being held in Denmark. COVID regulations forced the auction to be held online and because the Swakara sheep is a visual product that you want to see and feel, the sales were poorer than was anticipated.

More on the exports of livestock (from the Namibian Agricultural Union’s fourth quarter agrireview 2020):

A drop in the number of marketable livestock led to a reduced throughput to export abattoirs. Specifically, the number of sheep procured by export abattoirs reached such low levels that it became unsustainable, and for that reason one of the last two existing export abattoirs temporarily ceased operation.

Sheep export abattoirs secured approximately 194 510 units of sheep per annum on average (2017 to 2019), and in 2020 the estimated throughput dropped to 25 341 sheep, which is a major decrease of about 86,8%. The exportation of live sheep declined by 47,7% (that is 435 441 on average (2017 to 2019), and 227 583 live sheep in 2020 (see Figure 3).

B and C class abattoirs procured an estimated number of around 148 681 on average (2017 to 2019) and 115 548 head of sheep in 2020. Moreover, local abattoirs recorded an increased goat throughput of 6 999 goats in 2020, whereas the average between 2017 and 2019 was 5 018, indicating a growth of about 39,5%.

Live export of goats decreased by 43,8%, as 144 657 was the 2017 to 2019 goat average, and 81 301 goats were exported in 2020. Live goats are mainly exported to South Africa for ceremonial purposes. Therefore, despite a reduced number of goats on the market, the halt of social gatherings

as a result of COVID could have also negatively affected the export of live goats from Namibia to South Africa. The NAU production cost index recorded a 110,1 basis point in the 4th quarter (Q4) of 2019, and 113,4 basis point in Q4-2020 (see Figure 4). This means the annual agri-inflation rate grew by 3,1% year-on-year (Y-o-Y), while the consumer price index (CPI) increased by 2,4% (Y-o-Y) during the same time period. It goes to show that the price of production input items increased more than the price paid by consumers for a basket of goods and services.

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