Price of lucern, fodder rises sharply as drought worsens

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WINDHOEK – The price of lucern has gone through the roof as Namibian farmers are queuing up countrywide in search of fodder for their animals with the drought of 2015 now sinking its teeth firmly into the livestock industry.

While the price of a bale of Grade A lucern was hovering around the N$100 mark in January this year, desperate farmers are now willing to fork out up to N$150 per bale. Virtually all lucern for local consumption is imported from South Africa as lucern produced under irrigation in the Hardap region is earmarked for the Namibian Dairies Super Farm near Mariental. Some of the biggest suppliers of lucern and cut grass in the country related to Farmers Forum last week how critical the supply situation has become as the demand grows daily in light of the depleted grazing conditions in all regions. The situation was compounded by farmers using up all reserve razing after the drought of 2013, which has left the country’s livestock farmers in a frantic search for fodder.

Alex McDonald, owner of NamAgri says all signs are that this year’s drought will have a more devastating impact on the industry than the drought of 2013. “In all my years of supplying lucern have not witnessed a more serious situation than the current one. Due to my longstanding relationship with some of the major suppliers in South Africa, I am still able to land lucern for the “reasonable” price of about N$120 per bale. But availability of stocks is now becoming a huge issue as the demand by far outstrips the supply. Farmers buy in bulk and will take 300 bales of top-grade lucern and more at a time if we can supply. Grade 1 and 2 lucern is still readily available but is of poorer quality. Cut grass is also in very high demand and because of shortages, the price has also shot up to about N$115 per bale. Locally cut grass gets scooped up for own consumption and we have to import grass from South Africa as well,” he says.

The same picture was painted by a sales representative of Agra in Windhoek, Randall Goagoseb, who says all lucern shipments of 800 bales are sold long before they land n Windhoek. “The demand is higher than I have ever witnessed for this time of the year and it is still rowing as farmers start to panic in the face of the drought which is proving to be far worse than ever expected. Farmers from all areas in all regions take a minimum of 200 to 300 bales at a time and we find it hard to keep up with the demand. Suppliers in South Africa just can’t meet these demands all the time and because of the situation the price have shot up. Agra still sells lucern for N$120 per bale after the price was N$110 until February. We receive the odd consignment from the Hardap region but stocks are in general very low as the demand grows daily. The same situation is unfolding at all our branches countrywide and it serves as testimony to the seriousness of the drought. Farmers all say their natural grazing has been completely depleted,” Goagoseb notes.

As the drought worsens, many parts of the country are experiencing a shortage of animal feed, especially Lucerne, which is one of the most sought-after feeds among both communal and commercial farmers to sustain their livestock. Some farmers in the north claim suppliers run out of lucerne from time to time, which causes them great frustration and hindrance. Apart from lucerne, the prices of other animal fodder as well as supplements such as licks are skyrocketing as well. Currently a bale of lucerne costs N$140 at Agra, however some local business people resell it for as much as N$260, which is more than a 50kg lucerne pellet, which costs N$229 at Agra.

Livestock supplements such as Bosverteerlek, Eco Grasveldlek and Droëveld Konsentraat are also in high demand and the prices fluctuate, depending on the area as the animal feed and supplement shortage is a countrywide problem and is not confined to one part of the country. Due to the current drought, the demand for all kinds of fodder as well as licks is high throughout Namibia and poses a challenge for all suppliers and retailers of fodder and licks to provide for the needs of all farmers. Suppliers Farmers Forum spoke to say they realise the frustration of farmers with the periodical unavailability of fodder and licks and the importance of good planning and stock control, but she encourages farmers to communicate on a regular basis with their local Agra branches regarding their needs and the availability of products, considering also the delivery time for products to the various branches.Apart from lucerne, the prices of other animal fodder as well as supplements such as licks are skyrocketing as well.