Staff writer

Finance minister, Iipumbu Shiimi says AgriBank has extended up to N$1 billion in loans to farmers in various regions of the country over the past three years.

“Equally commercial bank loans to agriculture over the past five years have averaged in excess of N$4 billion, indicating a healthy flow of funds to this sector. Drought relief disbursements amounting to N$245 million has also been provided by AgriBank over the past year,” he said in his reply on matters raised during the Second Reading of the 2020/21 Appropriation Bill in Parliament.

He, however, warned AgriBank loan beneficiaries to repay their loans, as non-payment will have a negative impact on the landing capacity of the bank.

“I should hasten to say that those who are enjoying these loans have a fiduciary and moral duty to pay back these loans because a failure to do so would weaken the very institution we created to support agricultural production and agronomy in general. Honourable speaker, such people will not enjoy my support,” Shiimi said.

He said remains committed to fund the in the sector as seen by the recent completion of the Neckartal Dam.

“Government has invested heavily in this sector. For example, the amount of money invested in the green schemes and the recently completed Neckartal Dam, an investment of N$5.6 billion, are cases in point, just to mention a few. What needs to happen now is to ensure that these assets are functioning at full capacity for the country to reap the necessary benefits of these investments,” the Finance minister said.

“I should also mention that although more government’s investment in agriculture are needed to unlock private sector investment and domestic productive capacity, we should not lose sight of the fact that agriculture is a commercial activity and therefore greatly benefits from commercial funding through Agribank and commercial banks. Hence, one may not see the whole picture if the focus is only on the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform.”

According to the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) Labour Survey, Namibia’s agricultural sector created over 167,242 jobs during 2018, and this amounts to 23 percent of the total employed population in the country.

In response to the negative impact of the panedemic on the country’s agricultural sector, Agribank last month announced that it will offer farmers a 12 months installment holiday as part of the bank’s measures to cushion them.

This comes as he also announced that the bank is in the process of finalising funding arrangements to the tune of N$200 million to provide loans to farmers and agri-businesses to stimulate production and help farmers to diversify income to withstand variable weather conditions and pandemics such as COVID-19.

A major factor in agriculture’s relatively lower performance according to the Ministry of Agriculture has been the negative effects of droughts and floods on crops and livestock as a result of climate change.