Volatility in the livestock industry must be urgently addressed as the industry’s contribution to Namibia’s GDP dropped from 3.2 percent in 2007 to a mere 1.7 percent this year.
This was the firm warning from Dr John Steytler, Economic Advisor to the President, when he addressed a packed to the hilt Agra hall at the Windhoek Show Grounds last Friday morning at a breakfast meeting with the theme “What is happening to Namibia’s animal health?”
Steytler says the livestock industry’s contribution was N$1.9 billion of the total worth of N$67 billion of the Namibian economy and has since then steadily declined. “Livestock’s contribution is even more worrying when considering that crop production’s contribution was N$1.7 billion. This does not paint a rosy picture for the livestock industry as the core agricultural sector of the country,” he laments.
He says the livestock industry is one of the top five contributors of exports for the country and cannot be taken out of the equation as some 70 percent of all Namibians are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture and livestock farming specifically, as only form of income. “One third of every person with a job in Namibia is employed by the livestock industry and agriculture s indeed the livelihood of the Namibian economy. We cannot control the weather, but we must take control of inputs and things like our international trade and the processing industry,” he says.
Steytler says the impact of the industry is huge in terms of household and food security. “The 2014 Labour Survey showed that the average wage for people employed in the agricultural sector is N$2 500 per month, compared to N$6 500 for national average income.
“The key concern is that livestock numbers have steadily dwindled over the years and investment in farming has become stagnant. Investments in 2013 and 2014 have been virtually the same as in 2007 which is comparable to the industry running on a treadmill and not gaining anything after years of exercising. The question arises: “why are we not investing in farming? Why is the industry stagnant?”
“The answer lies therein that cost of capital in the industry is very high and returns are low. We must reduce these costs and ensure better returns. Livestock stock levels are at historically low levels. We have to increase stock levels and tackle bush encroachment head-on,” he stresses.
Steytler says the aim should be to get to a point where we can refer to Namibia as one big farm. “We must create back and forward links and we must smoothen the volatilities in the livestock industry. Land ownership is the elephant in the house and we must improve he status of ownership to have equal status of communal land ownership to that of commercial land status,” he urges.
In conclusion, he says all uncertainties that suppress growth must be removed from the livestock industry. On the issue of Government subsidies, he says “we can never compete with international subsidies and. given our small agricultural budget, we must be smart and remove all constraints that cause decline in national output and make sure agriculture keeps the pot boiling.”