By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The increase of 26.7percent in cattle sales last year contributed to the improvement in the performance of the agriculture sector. The general increase in the number of livestock marketed last year was due to the high demand for weaners, which prevailed throughout the year in South Africa. This demand arose from low prices of maize in that country which was used for feeding weaners, thereby making it cheaper to import weaners from Namibia and allowing them to grow to slaughterable sizes in South Africa. The Bank of Namibia’s 2005 Annual Report said that value addition in the agriculture sector was estimated to have recorded a growth of 3.2 percent during 2005 compared to 1.5 percent in 2004. The number of cattle marketed also grew by 26.7 percent in 2005 unlike a growth of 12.0 percent in 2004. While the sector was expected to perform well due to good grazing and an increase in international prices in 2004, the lamb and beef sub-sectors performed poorly, as this sector depends heavily on livestock marketed. The 2004 Annual Report says that the slower growth of that year was due to a decline in the number of cattle marketed to local abattoirs during the year, which declined by 7.6 percent compared to a decline of 10.9 percent in 2003. Responsible for this decline was the temporary suspension of Namibian meat exports to the EU and also due to the appreciation of the local currency against those of Namibia’s major trading partners. Although the agriculture sector showed an increase in 2005, especially in the third quarter, the growth slowed down during the final quarter of last year. The value addition of agriculture grew by 8.9 percent, lower than the preceding quarter’s 12.6 percent. This was due to the decline in growth in the number of cattle marketed locally. However, the total number of on-hoof cattle marketed to South Africa continued to expand as measured by the developments of the fourth quarter of 2004. The number of small stock also increased by 11,9 percent in 2005, compared to a rise of 22.4 percent in 2004. According to the BoN’s Quarterly Bulletin, launched last week, the total number of on-the-hoof cattle marketed to the country’s major trading partner increased by 66.4 percent during the final quarter of 2005. This increase is higher than the rise of 45.3 percent which was recorded in the third quarter. Additionally, the demand for livestock in South Africa and Europe has also boosted the livestock prices. In contrast to the commercial sub-sector, which performed well in 2005, the subsistence sub-sector showed slower growth, says the annual report. “The sub-sector was estimated to have registered a growth in value addition of only 4.6 percent in 2005 compared with 32.9 percent in 2004,” said the annual report. The slow growth should however be seen as a return to the average growth trend of the sector for the past three years as the stronger growth in 2004 was due to the recovery of the sector from a low base in 2003.