Retired Executive Manager for the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Sakkie Coetzee, has said Namibian farmers need a normal to above normal rainy season in order to come out of the crippling financial and productivity mess caused by the previous drought.
This comes as some farmers in the south, despite the good rains received so far, are still struggling as they remain trapped by the spell of drought induced by the el-Niño whether realised last year.
“After the last drought, hopefully we will have enough rain this year, otherwise it’s going to be a disaster. We look forward to a normal to better than normal rainy season. If not, I fear that we will have a lot of problems. Already we are still in a recovery stage after the last drought,” he said.
However, overall, the agricultural sector per se has been mired in poor growth since the 1990s and the situation has been terribly felt by livestock farmers, Coetzee said.
“First of all, if you talk of livestock farming, I think we were subjected to droughts since the 1990s and every time we had drought, one had to recover after that,” he said.
Coetzee also pointed out that although the market prices for farm-produce in nominal terms have increased, but in real terms they have stayed the same, which puts a lot of pressure on farmers’ financial liability.
“A lot of farmers ventured into agro-businesses like hunting, charcoal and horticulture and those kind of things and I think that is probably the way forward. To survive is to look at alternative sources of income on the farm,” he said.
Pressed on whether the economic collapse has had an impact on agriculture, he said the situation has been to the contrary, the sector having had played a part in absorbing some of the economic shocks.
“If you look at the agriculture sector per se, I can say that we were not subjected to issues of the economy. As I see it, the prices increased by 30% I think. But if you look at the government’s finances for example, we are not subject to the government in terms of their finances. We are subject to the market forces for our products. That makes it different for the agricultural sector,” he said.
On the land redistribution front, the agricultural expect turned full time farmer suggested that government has not demonstrated that it prioritised land reform due to the poor manner it has budgeted for farms purchase.
“I expect that the government should budget more for land reform if it is a priority. We are a bit concerned that the budget for the ministry of lands to buy farms is not enough,” he said.
Coetzee will spend the rest of his time on his farm, having given over the reigns to Roelie Venter at the NAU who will start next week as Executive Manager.
“I bought a farm in 1994 and I was a part-time farmer since 1994 and even before that I was into farms for nine years and what I am going to do now is to be a full time farmer,” he said.