The Omaheke Regional Council in eastern Namibia hopes to soon sign an agreement with Angola’s southern Cuando Cubango province for on-the-hoof exports of cattle, as well as increased quantities of processed meat products. Previously Namibia, concerned over the potential loss of breeding stock, restricted the cross-border live trade with its northern neighbour to an annual five head of cattle per farmer.
In response to the drought, these laws have been relaxed, said Willie Schutz, operations manager of the Meat Board of Namibia. The ministry has “responded to a real need for local farmers to find a solution to daily survival”, said Schutz.
The national Namibian cattle herd numbers around 2 million head, with 400,000 cattle processed each year. While South Africa is the biggest importer of Namibian meat and livestock in quantities, the European Union is the biggest importer by value.
Although the agreement is not yet in place, on-the-hoof trade has increased from a mere 1,700 head in the whole of 2012, to 5,600 head this year, most of it in the past two months. The aim is to increase trade, so that it starts to approach Namibia’s significant trade with South Africa, which this year has so far amounted to 193,000 head to the end of August.
The live trade to Angola is influenced by two developments. The first is the ongoing Namibian drought, now entering its third year in the north of the country, causing farmers to be desperate to reduce their stock levels. The other is that a booming Angolan economy, fuelled by petro-dollars, has grown its market for meat products. It has also made it possible for newly flush provincial authorities to start building their own breeding herds.
The Omaheke-Cuando Cubango agreement still faces some political hurdles before it is ratified. While the Namibian government has relaxed the on-the-hoof cross-border trade restrictions with Angola, this was meant to be a temporary measure, until the drought broke. It will take some lobbying, and reassurances that the breeding stock of informal farmers will not be irreparably depleted, to convince Namibia’s agriculture minister John Mutorwa to make permanent the relaxations, said Namibian meat industry experts, who wished to remain anonymous.