WINDHOEK - The charcoal industry in Namibia is experiencing an unprecedented boom with a growth of 42 percent in tonnages, according to the latest year-to-year figures. The blossoming industry also recorded a dramatic increase of 66 percent in production value, the State of Namibian Agriculture, a study by the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) has revealed.
Normally the industry is the supplier of some 6 000 jobs, but the current increased activities have pushed this figure up to between 9 000 and 10 000 workers. Considering different and connected factors such as current market demand and the industry’s ability to respond to such demand, it is estimated that Namibian charcoal exports could increase to 200 000 tonnes by 2020.
Charcoal – also called Namibia’s black gold –is mainly an export product with valuable contributions towards the GDP of the Namibian economy. Numerous farmers, who have entered this industry due to drought, stated that this is an excellent farming diversification with quick cash income.
On Friday, August 9, the annual charcoal expo will be held together with N-Big’s (Namibia Biomass Industry) expo at the Otjiwa Safari Lodge near Otjiwarongo. This promises to be the biggest biomass technology expo to ever take place in Namibia with 95 exhibitors who will introduce more than 50 different technologies for the use of encroacher bush.
Preparations are being made for 1 000 visitors and the day will start with the Charcoal Association’s AGM from 08:00 – 10:00, followed by the expo which will be opened by the Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, Tjekero Tweya.
Entrance is N$100 per person and interested parties that want to attend must first register online at the following website: https://www.webtickets.com.na/events/expos/1462550965
The boom in the industry also led to Namibia’s charcoal industry taking the lead in Africa by establishing its own standards by the end of this year.
Tweya recently said too much charcoal in bulk is exported to South Africa where it is processed and packed before it is exported to the European market. He said this in the presence of two officials of DHG, the biggest European importers of Namibian charcoal, when they visited the Namibian Charcoal Association (NCA) in Otjiwarongo.
The minister said that he personally visited three of the biggest buyers in South Africa and convinced them to move their processing plants to Namibia. They will now erect charcoal processing plants in Omaheke, Otjozondjupa and Erongo regions.
From there the processed charcoal will be transported with TransNamib via railway to Walvis Bay and then be shipped to export markets. The government sees charcoal production and exports as one of the manufacturing industries in Namibia which have the biggest potential to bring about economic growth and employment creation.
He also cautioned the industry to support local SMEs where possible when supplying packing material and not to import products which can be manufactured locally. Namibian’s charcoal industry is to obtain its own and very unique charcoal standards before the end of this year.
One of the main aims of the NCA is to promote the production of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified charcoal among its members and the localisation of these standards is key to meet the requirements for a more socially, economically and ecologically sound product. The standards are aligned with the FSC and the establishment of national standards serves to tailor the FSC standards to Namibia’s circumstances. Meeting FSC standards is a requirement for exporting to European markets. This is important for Namibia because the nine export markets for its charcoal are largely based in Europe, including Germany, France, Portugal, and Greece, and the UK. Government has identified charcoal production as one of the important export industries through which economic growth and employment creation can be brought about in Namibia. Currently, Namibia is the fifth largest charcoal producer in the world. Even though they are grateful that the 13 Namibian charcoal processors add value in Namibia by processing and packing locally, the minister is of the opinion that too much charcoal is exported to South Africa in raw unprocessed form.
The global demand for Namibian charcoal exceeds the offer and thus there is big growing potential.
In order to do so, the association facilitates a series of group schemes to conduct the audits for validating standards to be met through collective cooperation among a larger portion of land owners and processors in a given vicinity. “This approach to create economies of scale among the harvesters and processors supports improved coordination and reduced costs for individuals seeking to meet the rigorous certification requirements,” commented Michal Brink, CEO of CMO Consulting, a South African-based consulting company supporting the NCA to implement FSC group schemes among other services.
Charcoal production is an important activity for managing bush encroachment in Namibia with an estimated 160,000 tonnes of export volume annually, making it the largest exporter of charcoal in the Southern African region.