Namibia - Country Commercial Guide
Agricultural Sector

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-10-20

Overview

Agriculture is one of Namibia’s most important sectors, with the majority of Namibia’s population dependent directly or indirectly on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods.  Agriculture’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) (excluding fishing) over the last five years has been just over four percent.  Livestock farming comprises approximately two-thirds of agricultural production, with crop farming and forestry making up the remaining third of production.  According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, livestock’s contribution to the nominal GDP rose to 3.5 percent in 2020, compared to 3 percent in 2019.  Meat processing (which the Namibian government accounts for under manufacturing) contributes to another 0.2 - 0.4 percent of GDP.     

The export of live animals (mostly cattle and sheep) has historically contributed to about two-thirds of agricultural exports by value.  In 2019, Namibia exported about 12,400 metric tons of meat.  Most meat is exported to the United States, Europe, South Africa, and China.  In March 2020, Namibia became the first and only African country to export beef to the United States.  Namibia is also the second African country, after South Africa, to meet the stringent U.S. import conditions for beef.  Livestock farming remains an important foreign exchange earner for Namibia.  Between February 2020 and January 2021, Namibia’s state-owned meat processing and marketing entity, Meatco, slaughtered a record low 36,074 cattle compared to 116,304 cattle in the previous year when farmers rushed to market most of their herd following a five-year drought that peaked in 2019.

In recent years, the export of crops, vegetables, fruits, and forestry products have grown by value.  The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform (MAWLR) has two initiatives, the Green Scheme and the National Horticulture Development Initiative (NHDI), aimed at increasing local agricultural production.  The Green Scheme encourages the development of irrigated agronomic production with a target of reaching approximately 27,000 hectares along the perennial rivers bordering Namibia.  The Green Scheme has not met many of its initial goals: less than 9,000 hectares are under irrigation and several of the Green Scheme projects struggle financially.      

Under the NHDI, the government aims to increase local production and facilitate the marketing of fruit, vegetables, livestock fodder, and other horticultural products.  One element of the NHDI is an import substitution program dubbed the Namibian Market Share Promotion (NMSP).  In terms of the NMSP, importers of fresh horticulture produce are required to source a minimum percentage of their products from Namibian producers prior to qualifying for an import permit.  The initial NMSP threshold was set at 5 percent in 2005; the threshold has since increased and currently stands at 47 percent.  According to the Namibian Agronomic Board, as a result of the NHDI (and other initiatives), local horticulture production has grown by 52 percent since 2005.  In further support of the NHDI, the government set up the Fresh Produce Hub in the northern region with the aim to increase food production while preserving the freshness of food.     

To protect local farmers, encourage greater production of grain products, and meet Namibia’s food security goals, the government (via the Agronomic Board) has established policies to control the trade of white maize, wheat, mahangu (pearl millet), and products derived from these three grains.  Controlled grain crops can only be imported or exported with permits issued by the Agronomic Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform.  For each controlled grain there are specific restrictions, but restrictions do not include price controls.  Consult the Agronomic Board website (see below) to understand the restrictions in greater detail.

Namibia is a signatory of the Cartagena Protocol.  The Biosafety Act of 2006 governs the use/importation of bio-engineered (genetically modified) crops. 

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Marketing and distribution of indigenous plants
  • Highly efficient irrigation systems including solar/wind powered system; 
  • Farming equipment and machinery

Opportunities

Government Projects\

In March 2020, the African Development Bank (AfDB) approved a loan of US$ 121.7 million and an additional grant of €3 million from the AfDB’s Rural Water Supply Sanitation Initiative Trust Fund to support Namibia’s water sector.  The program aims to facilitate sustainable production and improve access to potable water for both agricultural and industrial use; enhance sanitation in rural areas (where many people still practice open defecation); and enrich institutional capacity for sustainable management and utilization of Namibia’s water resources.  The program, to be implemented over the next five years, entails the construction and rehabilitation of bulk water infrastructure (including a possible desalination plant) and construction of climate resilient sanitation and hygiene facilities.  At its completion in 2024, the interventions aim to directly benefit an estimated one million people.

In January 2021, Namibia’s largest dam, the Neckatral dam in the south of the country, reached 100 percent capacity.  Nicknamed the “Desert Dragon,” the dam cost more than US$ 300 million to construct, and can hold up to 857 million cubic meters of water.   The dam’s primary purpose is to irrigate 5,000 hectares of high-value crop plantations, including palm dates, grapes, and other fruits and vegetables – for the export market.  The Namibian government is inviting the private sector to participate in this project.

Resources

  • Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWF)
  • Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB)
  • Meat Board of Namibia http://www.nammic.com.na/
  • Meatco: http://www.meatco.com.na/
  • Namibia Agricultural Union http://www.agrinamibia.com.na/
  • Agra http://www.agra.com.na/home.htm