Namibian meat industry, one of the country’s largest foreign exchange earners, is turning east in search of new lucrative markets. Beef is the largest of the meat subsector in Namibia followed by lamb, mutton and goat meat.  

As of 2022, Namibia’s top beef export destinations are the EU with 29% of total beef exports, Norway with 25% and South Africa with 24%, according to data from the Meat Board of Namibia.  

As beef production is a key economic driver, contributing to about 70% of the country’s agricultural GDP, Namibia has been trying to diversify its export markets to fetch higher income for its people. 

In 2020, Namibia become the first African country to export red meat to the United States, following nearly two decades of negotiations. State-owned meat firm Meatco sent the country’s first shipment of 25 tons to the United States in February of that year with hopes of increasing exports to 5,000 tons by 2025.  

The Namibian beef industry is also turning East and recently embarked on a trade mission seeking to explore new meat and meat products markets in the Middle East. According to the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU) newsletter, trade missions were sent in August this year to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar to explore new markets for Namibia’s meat and meat products.

“This mission offers exciting possibilities for expanding Namibia’s high-quality meat exports, attracting investments and creating more jobs in the country’s livestock industry,” the NAU said. Other countries on Namibia’s radar are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which according to Dubai Chambers consume the most meat.  

Namibia’s minister agriculture, water and land reform, Callle Schlettwein also recently revealed that the South African nation was in the final stages of negotiations to secure a deal to export Namibia’s beef to China, the world’s third largest market for beef, according to Research and Markets. 

“When finalised, this will open up a significant market for Namibian sheep and goat meat products, thus creating an opportunity for increased domestic productive capacity by producers,” Schlettwein said.  

Research done by economic analysts, High Economic Intelligence, has unfolded the need for the Namibian beef industry to invest in new infrastructure such as feedlots, equipment and drought-restocking schemes to boost productivity in the sector.  

Without adequate infrastructure, Namibia is at risk of continuing to lose income as a result of exporting live cattle which has low value compared to processed meat. Statistics issued by the Meat Board of Namibia show that live exports are taking over beef for the first 5 months of 2021.

Until May, Namibia exported 45 623 live animals, while local slaughtering stood at 29 379 head of cattle for both export and local consumption. Interestingly, the country only sold 1,800 tonnes of beef from the slaughtering of 18 156 head of cattle by the end of May. This is a decrease compared to the 3,300tonnesof beef sold last year from 23 396 head of cattle, the statistics show.  

The analysts also found that effective national and transboundary vaccination programmes and disease control measures are needed to safeguard the health of the cattle population.  In addition, Turimuye Uandara, an Economist at High Economic Intelligence says the application of the practices would help develop more productive and disease-resistant cattle breeds and better feeding strategies and foster collaboration among industry stakeholders.  

Capacity around standards also need to be boosted if Namibia is to fully exploit its beef export potential. Currently, Namibia does not have a halal certifying body that is recognised by the Gulf countries.  As short term solution, it might need to explore alternative options such as using South African halal certifying bodies accepted in the Gulf region.

Fortunately, the Halal Trade and Marketing Centre has provided valuable guidance on the certification process and has urged Namibia to speed up the certification process to meet the preferences and requirements of the UAE and Qatar markets.  

Namibia currently hold a unique position as one of the few African countries with access to top-paying global markets. Further investments however remain key in unleashing the country’s export potential which will have a direct impact on the large proportion of the country’s rural population that depends on this activity for food security, livelihoods and economic well-being.

This feature appeared in the September 2023 issue of FOOD BUSINESS AFRICA. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE