Hoodia needs investment

AN investment of around N$886 million and much work, mainly in expansion and marketing, still needs to be done by both the Government and the private sector to unleash the potential of the agricultural sector, which has been moribund for a couple of years.
The Bank of Namibia (BoN) recently undertook a study titled 'Unleashing the potential of the agriculture sector in Namibia' to determine the factors causing the decline in agricultural growth, and how the situation can be reversed.
The sector is a vital component of the Namibia economy, as the sector sustains about 70 per cent of the population either directly or indirectly.
The prevailing drought, especially in the South, has worsened matters, resulting in relatively poor grazing for the livestock industry.
Namibia's small-stock farming sector mainly based in the South.
The total number of cattle marketed locally went down by 1,6 per cent during the second quarter of this year - which is a great decline from an increase of 33,4 per cent registered between January to March.
Beef and lamb prices also suffered a continued downward trend as the drought impact caused an oversupply of livestock.
Other constraints affecting agriculture were highlighted as unavailability of markets for some products, high input and transport costs, lack of finance, weather conditions, lack of skills and unavailability of farmland.
The BoN study revealed that an investment of N$885,9 million was required to propagate growth in products like poultry, mahangu, beef, sheep, jatropha, hoodia and a host of fruits and vegetables to turn around the fortunes of the industry.
The central bank study cautioned that the land policy should be carried out in a manner which will ensure continued activity.
"The land policy must be implemented in such a way that it dispels uncertainties to farmers, areas earmarked for resettlement must be defined clearly, and resettled farmers should be grouped into clusters.
"These areas should be equipped with the necessary infrastructure and be near by the markets to enhance productivity," read the study.
In lessons drawn from countries such as Malaysia, Kenya and Zambia, BoN said the respective governments had intervened in the agriculture sector through a number of policies such as giving support to smallholder farmers, broadening access to finance, provision of infrastructure and investing in research.
In two of these countries the agricultural sectors have taken off with Zambia registering growth and Malaysia enjoying the success of its palm oil industry.
Kenya has seen a negative wave due to inefficiencies in the areas of marketing, limited land expansion, low investments and bad weather.
Some of the recommendations from the study were that concerted efforts should focus on expanding production of beef, karakul and horticultural products in communal areas.
Marketing and promotion of products like grapes, processed goat meat and dairy products has been noted as vital, together with the modernisation of rural areas by developing proper infrastructure such as roads, electricity and feedlots.
Other ways forward include investment, research and de-bushing in commercial areas in order to increase the carrying capacity of the land, and also to encourage the local consumption of Namibian products.
The study commended the recent regulation by the Namibian Agronomic Board to have retailers source 15 per cent of their supply of horticultural products as an import substitution.According to the central bank, in 2004 the agriculture sector accounted for 11,5 per cent of total foreign exchange earnings for the country, and about 39 per cent and 19 per cent to the country's total maize and wheat consumption respectively.
"Despite the observed sluggish performance, the agricultural sector remains one of the key pillars of the Namibian economy given the fact that it is a provider of food, employment, income and foreign exchange."
The study drew from surveys administered to some 14 key bodies and institutions which represent farmers' interests across the country.