Agricultural output (including fishing) grew by 1.8 percent a year in the 1980s and by 4.0 percent a year between 1990 and 1997. Agriculture and fishing together contributed 12 percent of the GDP in 1998, but animals and meat products contribute 16 percent of export earnings (1998), and around 70 percent of the population are directly or indirectly dependent on farming for their livelihood. In 1997, about 227,000 cattle and 954,000 sheep and goats were produced. The food crops are millet, sorghum, maize and some wheat. Namibia imports up to 50 percent of its food needs.
Since independence, the government has planned to combat the inequitable system of land ownership, with huge ranches co-existing with marginal communal subsistence farming . A commercial land reform act passed in 1994 allows the buying-up of empty or underused commercial farms for redistribution to communal farmers. The droughts of 1991-92 and 1994-95 severely affected cattle grazing and cereal production, necessitating widespread food relief.
Fishing contributed 4 percent of the GDP in 1998 while fish and fish products comprised over 30 percent of Namibia's export earnings. The main fish species are pilchard, mackerel, and hake. A 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone has been established, halting over-fishing of deep-water species by foreign trawlers. Despite the growth in fish export value, the fish catch declined after 1993's record 784,000-tonne haul to 488,000 tonnes in 1997.