Slow growth of agricultural sector worrisome: Schlettwein

08 Oct 2014 15:20pm
WINDHOEK, 08 OCT (NAMPA) – The slow growth of the agricultural sector, which underpins the livelihoods of about 70 per cent of the population, is a serious concern.
Trade and Industry Minister Calle Schlettwein raised this alarm during the opening of the Agricultural Outlook Conference 2014 here on Wednesday.
“The national economy as a whole grew by 4.6 per cent a year between 2000 and 2011, while the growth in agriculture over the same period was merely 1.4 per cent per annum.
For a sector which underpins the livelihood of about 70 per cent of the population, this trend must be a cause for concern.
This makes me worried of course, as the minister responsible for industrialisation, that our agricultural base seems to be shrinking,” he noted.
Schlettwein then pledged Government’s support to the sector for its enhanced contribution to food security and increasing the living standards of people, particularly those living in rural areas.
He also urged all stakeholders in the agricultural sector to take advantage of the different Government support schemes which are in place, and where possible also to form joint ventures with Government institutions in order to develop the agricultural sector’s value-chains.
Schlettwein said it is important to note that very few countries have managed to industrialise without a strong agricultural base.
It is agricultural surplus production which drove the industrialisation processes in much of Europe and North America over the past two centuries.
Only a few countries have reached advanced development and industrialisation without agriculture, for example Singapore, but the rule in general applies, he stated.
He said it is often also thought that farmers can only participate in the first stage of the value-chain, and that their responsibility stops at the farm gate.
Schlettwein highlighted that specialised companies have a vital role to play in manufacturing and agro-processing, but there is also vast potential for on-farm processing.
He thus called for greater measures of equity participation by farmers in agro-processing companies, and for farmers who are not only well-positioned to take up such an opportunity.
“Agricultural producers should for their own good become part of a greater part of the product value- chain than just the first step of producing raw materials,” he added.