Farmers want weekend auctions back

A decision by the agriculture ministry to conduct livestock auctions on weekdays is said to have reduced the number of buyers in the north.

25 March 2020 | Agriculture

Farmers in the northern communal areas (NCA) are not happy with the agriculture ministry's decision to move auctions from weekends to weekdays, saying this has affected the customer turnout.

They say the auctions were already struggling to establish themselves, but now they become even more unproductive because of the government's latest move.

Auctioneer George Haufiku said the ministry took this decision because they do not want to pay overtime to the ministry employees who facilitate auctions, but it led to auctions losing buyers. He said auctions in the NCA need support from stakeholders such as the government but the decision to move them to weekdays was a sign that there is no support.

New concept

"When we started these auctions few years ago, we used to conduct them on weekends. Livestock auctioning is a new concept in the NCA and was attracting interest from sellers and buyers until last year when the ministry sent a directive that auctions must be conducted on weekdays for them to avoid paying overtime to ministry employees who facilitate auctions," Haufiku said.

"The majority of our customers are speculators and aspiring farmers. These aspiring farmers are employees who buy livestock to establish their farms, but now that auctions are moved from weekends these people no longer get time to come to our auctions due to their busy commitments during the week."

Haufiku said employees of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) facilitate auctions by conducting animal health inspections, making stock transfers from seller to buyer and issuing livestock transportation permits. If they work on weekends, they are entitled to overtime pay.

Dependent on govt

Haufiku said auctions in the NCA are still dependent on the government and they do not yet have the capacity to stand on their own like in the rest of the country.

He said people were developing an interest in trading livestock through auctions.

"Here auctions are organised by livestock marketing agencies operating under cooperatives. The only source of income they have is the auction levy which they charge. They are not yet in position to operate on their own.”

No comment could be obtained from the agriculture ministry as questions sent to them have not yet been answered.

Changing culture

Former cabinet minister Helmut Angula has called on the government to support livestock auctioning in the NCA.

"This is the only semi-formalised market we have in the NCA. Since auctions started our farmers have realised that they are gaining financial freedom through selling their livestock. They started understanding the importance of selling their livestock instead of their traditional ways of farming just for pride. Initiatives such as this only need to be supported," Angula said.



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