WINDHOEK - The agriculture and forestry sector recorded its worst quarter since 2013 and agriculture has now spent three consecutive quarters in the red, registering a contraction of 6.7 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2019 relative to a growth of 0.3 percent recorded during the same period in 2018.
Figures released by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) last week, show that the reduction in the sector emanated from declines recorded in both the livestock and crop farming subsectors. Although a recovery, the livestock subsector posted a decline of 0.3 percent growth in real value compared to a steeper decline of 8.3 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2018.
“Agriculture’s contribution to GDP was N$925 million in the first quarter and the poor performance of the livestock subsector was driven by a decline of 26.5 percent recorded in live exports of cattle to South Africa and Angola compared to a strong increase of 53.1 percent recorded during the first quarter of 2018. Cattle export to abattoirs and butchers went up by 6.8 percent compared to a 9.8 percent recorded in 2018,” the NSA states.
Small stock marketed to abattoirs and butchers recovered, registering a growth of 2.0 percent
compared to a decline of 18.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2018.
“Additionally, live small stock export to South Africa and Angola recovered registering a double digit increase of 28.9 percent relative to a contraction of 8.8 percent recorded in the same quarter of 2018,” the NSA reports.
According to the NSA, the crop farming subsector also contracted by 21.8 percent in real value added relative to a growth of 21.2 percent recorded during the same quarter of 2018. The poor performance was primarily driven by the drought situation causing fewer fields to be cultivated.
The NSA says about N$563 million less flowed through the Namibian economy in the first quarter of the year compared to the same three months last year, resulting in growth of minus two percent year-on-year.
Wholesale and retail trade as one of the drivers of the economy as it supplies food, showed a negative growth of 27.8 percent in the past quarter. This translates to the sector’s 13th consecutive quarter in negative territory, confirming that the recession is ravaging the Namibian consumer.
The contribution of the agricultural sector to the country’s economy has been declining over the past 11 years, Agribank’s chief executive Sakaria Nghikembua says.
The industry’s contribution to the GDP was 5.3 percent in 2007, declining to four percent in 2008. Moreover, the industry’s contribution continued to decline to 3.3 percent in 2015, and 3.4 percent in 2016, before increasing to 4.5 percent in 2017 and since then, it has been in the red.
Nghikembua says that to make its full contribution, the sector needs to overcome a host of challenges, among others erratic weather conditions, evidenced by recurring droughts, and occasional floods in some parts of the country; over-reliance on livestock farming, which is all the more challenging, given the erratic rainfall patterns and lack of diversification; and a general skills deficit in the agricultural sector, which is more pronounced among new entrants into the sector from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Other challenges include a lack of access to markets, specifically for northern communal farmers; a lack of access to meaningful credit for communal farmers, irrespective of location in the country; and a relatively high food import bill for a country that holds such great potential.