Namibia: Fish the Only Product With a Diversified Market

17 September 2020

THE latest trade statistics put fish exports at the top of the country's competitive products, being send to at least 10 countries around the world.

This is an achievement no other Namibian product in the top five exports in volume has achieved, according to the latest trade statistics for July 2020, compiled by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA).

Apart from being the only non-mineral product in the top five exports for many years now, the sector is slowly expanding its market from Spain - which in July accounted for 50,3% of Namibian fish.

Spain has been enjoying the bulk of Namibian fish since the statistics can go back in time, but a new trend is emerging with African countries showing a bigger appetite for Namibia's horse mackerel (maasbanker).

"Fish primarily destined to Spain, Zambia, South Africa and DRC claimed third position with an 11,7% contribution to total exports," said the NSA.

The diversified market shows competitiveness of the country's boxed fish and gives the country a chance to reduce its dependence on Spain for foreign reserves and income.

Namibian fish also managed to go beyond the Southern Africa Customs Union (Sacu) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) blocks to reach the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

Despite bilateral agreements, memorandums of understanding, foreign diplomacy visit, trade agreements, presidential visits around the world; there is one thing the country is failing to change - the composition of its export market.

Namibia's export market did not change much in July 2020 either, "maintaining the same countries (such as China, South Africa, Belgium and Spain) as in June 2020, with Botswana frequently falling out of the list and being replaced by Zambia,".

These top five markets absorbed 77,7% of Namibian raw materials and fish to the rest of the world.

This means Namibia depends on about four countries for its top exports - exposing the country to external shocks. If the economy of one of these top consumers of Namibia minerals contracts, it will have a big impact on Namibia's income and foreign reserves.

One other notable absence in the top five export commodities for some years now is beef. Despite reaching American and Chinese markets, beef is still struggling to get on the top five exported products.

This is because export abattoirs are finding it hard to increase volumes because of the drought and other constraints suggested by stakeholders at their two-day seminar organised by the Meat Board of Namibia at the end of the first quarter.

Secondly, the latest Namibia Agricultural Union quarterly review says it is becoming very expensive to farm with livestock as input costs are rising, and farmers are opting to sell weaners as opposed to raising livestock for slaughter at abattoirs.

BILLION DOLLAR BILLS

Early this year fish exports to various destinations reached an all-time high, bringing in N$1 billion in revenue in January 2020.

The NSA says on average, fish can bring around N$858 million monthly.

In July 2020 however, the fish exports brought N$663,6 million into the country, recording a 20,2% decline from more than N$800 million in export earnings recorded in June.

The July 2020, export earnings are almost equivalent to the N$627,9 million, the government reportedly realised from the auction of 72 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel (maasbanker); 392 metric tonnes of monkfish, and 11 000 metric tonnes of hake.

The Ministry of Finance is yet to confirm if they received all the proceeds from the auction, as they extended the payment deadline at the beginning of September.

Exports of fish for July 2020 was mainly distributed among the following countries: Spain N$334,1 million (50,3%), Zambia N$91,5 million (13,8%), South Africa N$57,4 million (8,7%), DRC N$42,7 million (6,4%), and France N$33,9 million (5,1%).

Apart from Zambia, DRC, and South Africa, Namibia also exported fish to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, according to the NSA.

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