The Bank of Namibia (BoN) recently hosted its annual symposium under the theme 'Feeding Namibia: Agricultural Productivity and Industrialisation'.
The first symposium was held in 1998 and the BoN has hosted one annually since. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together experts in the field of economics (internationally and locally) to exchange views on various issues pertaining to the Namibian economy.
Agriculture (excluding fisheries) is considered an integral part of the Namibian economy, contributing about 3.3% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This reflects a sharp decline from the roughly 5% recorded in 2010.
Primary agricultural products include livestock and meat products, crop farming and forestry.
In his opening remarks, the central bank's governor, Ipumbu Shiimi, said it is not good to depend on others for food, as they can close their borders when times are tough.
He added that if Namibia can start feeding itself, it will help improve our foreign reserves as less money will be going out of the country to purchase food, stressing that the current import bill is high.
“There are some things Namibia cannot produce. But basic things we consume, like food, we should produce,” he said.
According to the BoN, “Namibia needs to grow its own downstream industries that process agricultural produce in order to create jobs and generate income”.
The keynote speaker was the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Honourable John Mutorwa. He said that the agriculture sector needs a lot of support to overcome challenges such as poor rainfall, lack of access to agricultural technology and a lack of funding, among others.
Furthermore, the minister stated that “Namibia imports roughly 70% of its food requirements, which is not a good sign at all”.
In Namibia, there are about 6 000 commercial farms, while subsistence farming is mainly confined to “communal areas” in the country’s populous north where free-roaming cattle are prevalent and the main crops are millet, sorghum, corn and peanuts.
“A strong and efficient agricultural sector will enable the country to feed its growing population, generate employment and foreign exchange, and provide a market for industrial products.”
The symposium provided a platform that focused attention on the agricultural sector to address the eminent issue of a lack of food security and agricultural productivity in Namibia.
The symposium included several key industry players like Namwater, Meatco and the Meat Board of Namibia, who gave an overview of their sector and future interventions.
Agriculture takes centre stage
The 18th Annual Symposium