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Namibia’s 2017 export earnings improve … as rough diamonds suffer weak demand

by Kelvin Chiringa

The local economy reaped positive earnings from exports of food and live animals as well as manufactured products while profits from rough diamonds decreased as demand shifted to polished in the past trading year.

According to latest indications, the value of rough diamonds declined by 6.6% to N$9.7 billion during 2017 as demand for polished diamonds ticked up.

This comes in handy for an economy that has shifted its policy towards value addition to reap optimum profits from locally available gifts of nature.

It also comes in the heels of former mines and energy minister, Obeth Kandjoze, having having fumed over a wanton sale of 80% of rough diamonds by industry players in 2016 to the detriment of the value addition drive.

“We do appreciate the need for flexible business environment that allows you to manage your Namibian business in a sustainable manner, however the practice of exporting in some cases 100% of the rough diamonds meant for beneficiation purpose is in our view totally against the spirit of beneficiation and I would like to put it on record that we can condemn the contribution of this practice in the strongest of terms,” Kandjoze is quoted by The Villager as saying.  

According to the bank of Namibia, the relatively lower yield from rough diamonds exported during 2017 affected overall profits from the exports of the mineral.

The situation was not the same for Uranium whose export earnings grew by 2.3% (N$4.7 billion in 2017 from N$4.6 million in 2016) due to commencement of commercial production by a new mine.

Other mineral exports increased to N$6.3 billion (4.6%) during 2017 at the back of higher receipts from Zinc concentrates which rose by N$475 million to N$1.2 billion between 2016 and 2017.

International prices of Zinc also rose to US$2 891 per metric tonne in 2017.

Export earnings from food and live animals also rose by N$1.4 billion to N$3.8 billion last year due to increased marketing activities in live animals.

According to the central bank, demand for live animals was higher especially weaners in South Africa during the same period. 

Namibia’s manufactured products saw an increase by 7.9% to N$21 billion in export profits as well due to proceeds from processed fish, polished diamonds and refined Zinc.

Proceeds from processed fish rose by 0.4% to N$8.6 billion while those from polished diamonds rose by N$1.3 billion to N$5.4 billion in 2017.

“This was partly a trade-off, since rough diamonds export earnings fell during the period under review. Proceeds from manufactured products were further boosted by increased receipts from refined Zinc which rose by N$539 million to N$3.4 billion, supported by the favourable international Zinc price,” said the bank.