Agri sector 'must be modernised'

Namibia's agriculture sector lags far behind in the application of modern agricultural production and processing technologies, the agriculture minister says.

03 September 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Agriculture must be urgently transformed and modernised so that it can serve as the bedrock of the country's economic recovery efforts.

Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein says modernisation will also give effect to the policy objective of competitive sourcing of production inputs, and adding value through substantial transformation of the produce into processed or manufactured products for the domestic and export markets.

He was speaking at the opening of an agriculture conference in Windhoek yesterday.

According to Schlettwein the agricultural sector is by far the largest employer in Namibia, with agriculture, forestry and fishing accounting for about 167 242 individuals or 15.3% of the total Namibian workforce.

“Agriculture supports the livelihoods of about 70% of the Namibian population. It remains our conviction that agriculture offers the best opportunities to revitalise our economy, create productive and decent jobs, develop skills, transfer and adapt technology, bring about less inequality, better living standards for all and ensure food self-sufficiency at national and household levels.”

Lagging behind

But Namibia's agriculture sector lags far behind in the application of modern agricultural production and processing technologies.

Schlettwein said the agriculture sector contracted 2.6% last year, on top of a decline of 1.9% in 2018.

“The downward trajectory in the sector has been coming on for some time and must be a matter of concern.” According to him the GDP share of the agriculture sector now stands at only 3.9 %, down from about 7% in 2006.



Consumption economy

Schlettwein pointed out that the Namibian economy is a consumption-led economy, depending up to 60% on public consumption.

“When public consumption drops, growth disappears. Secondly, as an economy that consumes what it does not produce (finished goods and services), and produces what it does not consume (primary commodities such as minerals, fish and other raw materials), stimulating the economy by higher public consumption does not cut it.” Structural reform and significant investments in the productive sector are therefore required.

“Our task is to scrutinise the regulatory and administrative framework with the intent to clean it from unnecessary and bureaucratic provisions that add no value. We need regulations, we need a proper administration and we need to support the sector, but we must achieve that in the least burdensome manner.”



Strategise

He said the public- and private-sector stakeholders are thus summoned to comprehensively review and refine sector strategies.

“Recommended solutions must be practical and their implementation should be efficiently coordinated. The success of strategic sector interventions will be measured by sectoral performance against set targets.”

The minister said the key performance indicators should hit the national agricultural policy targets, including improved rangeland management, increased agriculture production, increased yields per hectare, national and household food security, food self-sufficiency, horizontal and vertical integration of agriculture value chains, and optimal utilisation of resources.

Recommendations from this conference will form part of the private-sector input into the agri-food sector strategy document that is being formulated with the technical assistance of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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