For years now, the discussion of adding value to the country’s resources has been a topical issue. We have all partaken in the discussion around the issue. At least we all agree that adding value to Namibian products before they are exported is the right thing to do.
The benefits of value addition have been made known to all and sundry, quite rightly so. We now know that to reap the best benefits from what we produce locally, we ought to prioritise adding value to such products. The message is loud and clear.
What we don’t talk about in greater detail, however, is how value addition could be applied practically; how do we actually go about adding value to products? Even so, how can agriculture produce and commodities benefit from value addition?
Value addition, while being a feasible concept and worth its salt, leaves little room for immediate benefit of small-scale producers and farmers. Differently put, a single farmer would opt to market his products without much thought to value addition due to the need to have cash in hand.
A commercial farmer who mainly relies on the sale of weaner calves for an income, would clearly not think twice about selling them off whole, rather than deriving more products from them such as canned beef, biltong, mince and others. It is all about how fast he can get his money after selling the calves.
At the moment, we have more cattle leaving Namibia on the hoof through auctions by South African buyers than what is marketed at Meatco. This has largely to do with prices, as farmers are bound to sell where prices are most favourable for their products.
Meatco has been appealing to farmers to “...keep slaughter-ready animals within the Namibian borders and avoid them leaving on the hoof for South Africa...”, but to little avail.
The sustenance produced from livestock farming supports 1.2 million Namibians in over 200 000 households. More than a quarter of Namibian households depend largely on agriculture and 90% of agricultural land is best suited for livestock production.
In fact, about 70% of the Namibian population depends on agricultural activities for livelihood, mostly in the subsistence sector. Agriculture in Namibia contributes around 5.1% of the GDP, of which 70% represents the output of the livestock sub-sector, according to latest figures.
Undoubtedly so, agriculture is indeed a vital sector. Can the same emphasis of importance be placed on value addition in the industry? Certainly, but more work needs to be done on the ground to allow this to happen.
Farmers are all for value addition, but clearly not at the expense of their livelihood, hence the need for proper, targeted and researched interventions to maximise value addition in the agriculture sector.