THE advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant closure of borders has exposed the high level of Namibia’s food insecurity.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein said that the country can no longer rely on supplies of basic commodities from elsewhere.
He added that the government should not feel secure in utilising monetary reserves to procure staple food for purposes of import while neglecting compensation for domestic food production.
According to Schlettwein, following the introduction of the State of Emergency in March because of the pandemic, some of Namibia’s trading partners imposed restrictions on the export of staple foods such as grains and essential products such as medicine and medical equipment.
“It remains our conviction that agriculture offers the best opportunities to revitalise our economy, create productive and decent jobs, develop and transfer skills, adapt new technology, bring about less inequality, better living standards for all and ensure food self-sufficiency at national and household levels,” Schlettwein said.
He added that there is, however, a need to urgently transform and modernise agriculture into a vertically and horizontally integrated industry for it to serve as the strong bedrock of the country’s economic recovery efforts.
“These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that Namibia’s agriculture sector lags far behind in the application of modern agricultural production and processing technologies,” he said.
Schlettwein expressed the hope that delegates to the congress will look at revising policy objectives for competitive sourcing and production inputs.
He said substantial transformation is needed for value to be added to raw products for it to be sold on the domestic and export markets.
“It is important to highlight that substantially transformed products are more likely to meet rules of origin to afford preferential access into lucrative export markets,” he said.
Schlettwein said that public and private sector stakeholders are summoned to comprehensively review and refine sector strategies.
He added that recommended solutions must be practical and the implementation thereof should be efficiently coordinated.
“Therefore, the key performance indicators should hit the national agricultural policy targets, including improved rangeland management, increased agriculture production, increased yields per hectare, national and household food security, food self-sufficiency, horizontal and vertical integration of agriculture value chains, and optimal utilisation of resources, to mentioned but a few,” he said.
According to Schlettwein, concerted effort should be made by both the public and private sector to attain policy targets for a sustainable agri-food producing sector in the country.
“The agriculture sector is supporting the livelihoods of about 70% of the Namibian population,” Schlettwein said.
The agriculture minister officiated at the opening of a national conference where market led agriculture will be discussed in-depth.
The minister said the Agricultural sector is the largest employer by far, with agriculture, forestry and fishing accounting for about 167 242 individual jobs.