Agriculture is one of Namibia’s mainstay industries and around 70% of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture. It is also one of the largest direct and indirect employers and its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected at just under 7% for 2023/24. The commercial sector is complemented by a large informal sector which is characterised by subsistence farming.
The Bank of Namibia (BoN) says in its March Economic Outlook Update that growth in agriculture is expected to stabilise at low levels during 2023 and 2024, mainly due to inconsistent rainfall patterns. Livestock farming is projected to grow by 4.2% in 2023, while crop farming and forestry is projected to grow by 2.6%.
Livestock farming contributes approximately two-thirds of the country’s agricultural production. A total of 183,000 cattle were marketed in 2022, representing a 4.3% increase from the number of cattle marketed in 2021. The growth has been attributed to relatively good prices at export abattoirs and increased marketing in the first half of 2022.
Namibia exported 10.2 million kg of beef in 2022, compared to 7.87 million kg in 2021. The European Union accounted for 46% of the exports, while South Africa, Norway and China were among the other important export markets.
MeatCo received a lifeline of N$66.7 million in the 2023/24 national budget. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Iipumbu Shiimi said the government recognised the ongoing difficulties at MeatCo and realised the important role it plays in the livestock subsector and the economy. The government had, consequently, undertaken an in-depth review and analysis of the enterprise’s business strategy and business plan, as well as its funding structure. The report’s recommendations would determine what steps should be taken to secure the sector’s long-term sustainability.
MeatCo is expected to face stiff competition from Savanna Beef Processors, which was initiated by the Beef Value Chain Forum (BVCF) and established in November 2020 to address and meet producers’ beef production needs by focusing on exports and quotas. The project has received the support of over 659 producer shareholders who invested N$173.5. Savanna Beef announced in June 2023 that cattle producers would have another opportunity to buy shares to the value of N$26.5 million in the hope that they would own 100% of the N$200 million share capital. An agreement for the purchase of 25 ha of land north of Windhoek for the construction of a beef-processing facility has been reached, subject to certain conditions. The company aims to slaughter 22,000 to 24,000 cattle a month when it is fully operational.
The sheep sector recorded growth of 38% with 459,542 sheep marketed in 2022. Most of the sheep were exported to abattoirs in the Northern Cape, where substantially higher prices for A-grade lamb were paid than at Namibian abattoirs. The goat sector recorded 25% growth in 2022 as a result of the increased demand for live goats in South Africa.
The Mariental Abattoir, formerly known as the Farmers’ Meat Market, expects to market 50,000 sheep in 2023, 70,000 in 2024 and 280,000 by 2025. The company secured a quota to export 400 tonnes of deboned lamb to Norway between 1 January and 31 December 2023.
The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) has maintained the Market Share Promotion (MSP) scheme at the 47% threshold. The scheme aims to stimulate horticultural production in the country and to promote the sales of locally-produced fresh fruit and vegetables. Namibia, however, continues to import 95% of fresh fruit and 97% of processed agricultural products from South Africa.
Table grapes heads the list of Namibia’s top horticulture exports in terms of value, followed by dates, onions, tomatoes and blueberries. The grapes sub-sector harvested 43,799 tonnes in 2022, an increase of 16% on the 2021 season’s harvest of 37,711 tonnes.
Mashare Berries Farming, east of Rundu in the Kavango East Region, plans to expand the 60-ha area of blueberries under full production with a further 30 ha in 2023. The company has expanded its international export market to the Middle and Far East, in addition to export markets in Europe.
Investors have, so far, shown little interest in the government’s plans to lease its green schemes – which previously fell under the state agricultural entity, the Agricultural Business Development Agency (AGRIBUSDEV) – to private investors. The only successful bid was for the Uvhungu Vhungu Dairy Farm and Irrigation Project which has been leased to a Namibian-Indian joint-venture company for a 25-year period.
In early May 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry readvertised the leasing of three brown schemes on a build, operate and transfer model, namely Zone (1,800 ha), Tandjieskoppe (960 ha) and Katima-Liselo (1,000 ha) irrigation projects. Prospective bidders were required to submit their pre-qualification documents by 31 July 2023.
An amount of N$10 million has been made available in the 2023/24 budget to start with the development of the Neckartal Dam Irrigation Scheme southwest of Keetmanshoop. The irrigable land is estimated to be approximately 4,250 ha or 85% of the required 5,000 ha.
Namibia’s average annual cereal production is much lower than the domestic demand and the country continues to be a net importer of white maize and wheat. A white maize harvest of 67,387 tonnes has been projected for the 2023 season, while the demand has been estimated at 115,243 tonnes. The decrease in the 2023 production has been attributed to poor rainfall in the Maize Triangle, which produces more than 50% of the country’s maize.
Wheat production for 2023 is projected at 29,800 tonnes – an increase of 61% on the previous year – which is just over 20% of the local demand. The increase has been attributed to more producers entering wheat production and an increase in the area planted under maize.
The poultry sector, which comprises egg, day-old chicks and broiler production, generated N$1.2 billion in 2021. The increased cost of imported chicken feed, which accounts for two-thirds of production costs, and imports of cheap poultry meat continue to hamper the broiler production.
The country’s only large-scale producer of chicken meat produces around two-thirds of the annual local demand. Despite an import quota of 1,200 tonnes per month, which became effective from 1 April 2020, the company continues to face competition from cheaper imports and illegal dumping.
Egg production continues to suffer as a result of the influx of cheaper imported eggs, mainly from Zambia where chicken feed is cheaper. Most of the imported eggs are sold in informal markets, resulting in a reduction of sales in retail stores. Local producers have had to cut production by 50% in 2022 as a result of the egg surplus, putting small businesses and MSMEs out of business.
Namibia’s high-quality charcoal continues to be in demand and the country ranks among the top ten largest exporters of charcoal in the world. The industry has earned Namibia N$4.1 billion in foreign exchange between 2009 and 2020 and has created employment for an estimated 10,000 people. The European Union, United Kingdom, South Africa, Middle East, Australia, the United States of America and Asia are the main export markets.
The interests of the industry are represented by the Charcoal Association of Namibia, a non-profit voluntary membership association. Its membership has grown from 280 in 2016 to 1,466 members and nine associate members by August 2022.
Agro Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA)
P O Box 350, Windhoek
Erf 209, Industria Road, Lafrenz, Windhoek
Tel: +264 61 202 3300
Namibia Agronomic Board
P O Box 5096, Windhoek
No. 30 David Meroro Str, Windhoek
Tel: +264 61 379 500
Meat Corporation of Namibia Ltd
P O Box 3881, Windhoek
Northern Industrial Area, Windhoek
Tel: +264 61 321 6400
Namibia Agricultural Union
AgriHouse, Cnr Robert Mugabe & Sinclair
Tel: +264 61 237 838
Agricultural Business Development Agency (AGRIBUSDEV)
P O Box 41006, Windhoek
Erf 3507 Van der Bijl Street, Windhoek
Tel: +264 61 424 800
Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank)
Private Bag 13208, Windhoek
Tel: +264 81 207 4201
Namibia National Farmers Union
P O Box 3117, Windhoek
Tel: +264 81 271 117