The foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak continues to leave meat vendors in the northern regions desperate and stranded.
The outbreak that was first detected in the Oshikoto region last December led to the restriction of animal movement in the northern regions, resulting in suppressed economic activities in the livestock sector. Meat traders, who have been making a living from selling raw and grilled meat (kapana) for years, say they are battling to earn a living and pay their workers, as they are now required to buy meat carcasses from as far as Grootfontein, and many cannot afford it.
Many meat vendors have closed, as locals can no longer slaughter their own cattle. A stroll around the popular Oshakati open market testifies to the negative effect the FMD restrictions have had on meat vendors, as many meat stalls are unoccupied. Those who have stayed on, bear the brunt of increased meat prices.
Rauna Iiyambo (41), a vendor at the Oshakati open market for more than 10 years, has been providing for her family by selling raw, fresh beef. Before the FMD outbreak, she could make at least N$1 500 a day and could source more meat for the next day’s sale. She says this is not the case anymore.
“The meat has become scarce and when it is available, it is very expensive. Those of us who sell meat here have to wait until a Grootfontein farmer, who sells meat, makes his delivery rounds, and he is not here every day. So, when our supplies are finished we have to wait for his next visit, which can be a week later. We are seriously having a hard time. I am aware of the FMD outbreak in the region but I understand we have to have the animals vaccinated but the process is taking long. We are not making profit as we did before. They (government) should hurry up and vaccinate the animals so that business and life can get back to normal,” said Iiyambo.
Another kapana vendor, Kashima Apono, also based at the Oshakati open market, shared Iiyambo’s sentiments.
“I have been a vendor here selling meat for more than 15 years and I have made a living and sent my children to school with the money I make from selling meat. At the moment, we are not happy at all. The meat that is available at the markets has become expensive because those that sell know that we are desperate so they increased the prices. The local abattoir is even more expensive. This is just terrible, we have been out of business due to the Covid-19 pandemic and just as we got back to business, we are hit by this FMD outbreak,” complained Apono.
Grootfontein-based livestock farmer Peter Visagie spends his week travelling across the northern regions of Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and the Kavango regions with a trailer filled with meat.
“People are struggling to get meat because they are not allowed to slaughter and the meat is now more expensive. Before the outbreak, we sold a piece of beef to vendors for N$10, but we are now selling it for N$25, the head was N$150 now we sell it for N$300, while a calve was sold at N$6 000 but now you get it for N$15 000. I usually divide my time between Rundu and the north-central regions. One week here and one week there. It is an unfortunate situation that meat vendors are in and we also cannot reduce our prices because meat has become expensive,” said Visagie.
Chief veterinarian Albertina Shikongo said although the ministry of health began livestock vaccination last month, starting in Kunene, Oshana, Oshikoto and Omusati regions, it does not have enough doses to cater to all animals in the affected regions.
“We do not currently have enough doses to vaccinate all animals in the affected areas at the same time, we are still procuring vaccines. We are aware of the economic impact on business activities related to livestock and we urge those affected to be a little patient,” said Shikongo.