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Nam Cattle Equivalent To Its Population

By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus

According to the Meatco 2020 cattle head assessment, Namibian cattle numbers are estimated to be around 2.51 million, equivalent to the country’s estimated population of 2.5.

The majority of these cattle are found on the northern side of the redline (Kunene Region to Kavango East), the areas referred to as Foot and Mouth Diseases (FMD) Protection Zone, compared to the southern side.

Meatco revealed these figures during their presentation to the Namibia-Angola Business Forum, held at Helao Nafidi last week.

According to Meatco’s data, 1.4 million of the country’s 2.51 million cattle head are found on the northern side of the redline, the FMD Protection Zone.

While on the southern side of the red line, there are 913 116 cattle – which could be in line with the commercial activities happening above the redline.

The rest of the cattle are found in the Zambezi region, which is categorised as FMD Infected Zone, which has 230 000 cattle.



Southern farmers mostly farm to sell and have access to all lucrative markets; locally, Europe, China, and the USA – which could explain their numbers of cattle.

Despite the occasional appearance of FMD and the availability of quarantine facilities, the northern producers kept their animals for status. According to various interviews carried out by The Villager, they failed to supply to abattoirs consistently.

Even locally, the southern producers dominate. As a result, the northern part of the redline still imports beef from the south despite the north’s large cattle numbers.

Most of the northern abattoirs aren’t consistently slaughtering or are just not efficiently operating, according to some of the interviewed market participants. As a result, there are no big abattoirs in the protected zone aside from a mobile one in the Kavango Regions and the Oshakati one, which has been rocked by operation issues.

The southern side of the red line, which is called the FMD Free Zone, has an off-take of around 237 410 cattle (26 per cent of the total head in the south) every year.

Currently, the southern livestock producers have access to or sell their beef to around 10 markets worldwide; domestic, SA, Angola, DRC, Norway, UK, Hong Kong, China, and the USA, according to Meatco data.

Between 2011 and 2020, Meatco data indicates that the south has also exported around 227 000 live cattle to SA, mostly weaners.

The northern producers (FMD Protected Zone) have only 137 000 off-take (10 per cent of 1.4 cattle in the north) annually.

The northern FMD Protected Zone has no access to another market rather than the north (Northern Communal Areas) as their beef is not allowed to cross the red line to the south nor be exported unless it went through the quarantine and other procedures.

The Meatco assessment also shows that the FMD Protected Zone livestock producers can potentially sell beyond the north and export to around seven markets, mainly in Africa (DRC, South Africa, Angola, Ghana, and Congo), the Middle East, and Asia.

However, this depends on policymakers and the producers solving the current impediments, FMD, and ensuring a consistent supply.

The FMD Infected Zone, which is mostly the Zambezi region, has an off-take of 23 000 cattle per year (10 per cent of what the region has).

Their beef is sold to the NCA. The Zambezi region, however, has the potential to export to other markets in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The plans to mainstream the northern communal producers of more than a million cattle depend on implementing the Commodity Based Trading (CBT) approach.

The CBT describes standards, guidelines, and procedures to be applied to facilitate the safe trade of meat and meat products and the eventual movement of meat or meat products from the foot-and-Mouth disease Protection Zone and Infected Zone in Namibia’s Northern Communal Area (NCA).

So far, Meatco’s assessment shows a 40 per cent market (formal and informal) available on the NCA for the northern producers. However, most of the beef consumed in the formal market is imported from the southern side of the red line.

This is despite a directive restricting the practice. An observation by The Villager at the Oshivelo checkpoint is that vehicles are only inspected if they are carrying beef from the north and not from the south.

Another market that exists for the northern producers is beyond the red line, which can take up 30 per cent of their beef and livestock.

Moreover, if the currently identified continental, Middle East, and Asia markets can be pursued, they will provide the NCA producers with 30 per cent markets for their beef.

According to Meat Board statistics (March 2022), none of the beef exported since the beginning of 2021 came from the northern export abattoirs.

The southern exporting abattoirs have slaughtered 15 246 heads in the first three months of the year.

In terms of local slaughter (butchers) to cater for the local formal market, northern butchers have only slaughtered 961 heads of cattle by the end of March 2022, compared to their northern counterparts who slaughtered 6 061 heads. Email:

Julia Heita

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