Investments in higher-yielding horticultural seeds, water availability and basic training for farmers should be Namibia’s focal points to substantially boost local food production.
In addition, domestic horticulture production can further be scaled up by providing affordable credit, subsidised ploughing, weeding services and government support (fertiliser subsidies) to farmers to upscale their production.
These are the recommendations of a 2023 report by High Economic Intelligence (HEI), a firm owned by economist Salomo Hei, on Namibia’s horticultural industry that concluded making the sector more attractive could motivate a significant number of producers that could increase production and lead to increased food security for Namibia.
“The industry is faced with challenges, including high production costs, drought and pest diseases. These challenges affect the production of horticulture products, leading to insufficient production for the domestic market. The country is not self-reliant in the production of fresh fruits, and it continues to be a net importer of fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears and avocados from South Africa,” reads the HEI report.
The report noted the Namibian economy remains heavily reliant on imported horticultural products – even though some production has improved over the years, particularly for crops such as carrots, cabbage, English cucumber, butternuts, beetroot, pepper and pumpkins.
However, HEI cautioned that local production is still insufficient to meet local demand, hence the need for increased production.
Currently, the most consumed horticultural products in Namibia are potatoes, followed by onions and carrots.
The country’s overall horticultural production consists of specially controlled products, including crops such as gem squash, beetroot, sweet potato, potatoes, butternuts, pumpkin, cabbage, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, coloured peppers, carrot, watermelon, sweet melon and sweetcorn.
These are produced in both commercial and communal areas under various irrigation systems.
According to the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), about 96% of fruits are imported, and only 4% are produced locally for 2023.
The NAB observes the production of specially controlled products by closing borders in instances where local production exceeds local demand for that particular product.
“The production of horticultural products has been driven by local demand over the years with a gradual increase in local production. Closing of borders has led to local production increasing significantly from 5% in 2005 to 47% to date, and local demand increased from 68 056 tonnes in 2011 to the current 95 734.23 (2022/2023),” the HEI report states.
The report further notes that during 2022/2023, Namibia imported 66 824 tonnes of horticultural products, valued at N$524 million.
During the same period, domestic demand for horticultural products amounted to 95 734 tonnes, of which only 30% was produced locally. During 2022/2023, Namibia imported a total of 29 893 fruits, valued at N$288 million.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, the import value of horticulture products amounted to N$2.9 billion in 2022.
The highest value of imported horticultural products was recorded for September 2022 at N$362 million, with the lowest value being for July 2022 at N$149 million.
“The decline in the importation of horticultural products for that period was attributed to the import restrictions imposed by the Namibia Agronomic Board on some horticulture products, such as beetroot, butternut, cabbage, carrot, coloured peppers, onions and sweet potatoes. South Africa dominates the importation of horticultural products for Namibia,” the HEI report explained.
Meanwhile, a recent Simonis Storm report noted that local farmers are discouraged by low wholesale prices emanating from South Africa. This, the local farmers bemoan, results in smaller volumes, which make more sense for informal retail markets.
The challenging state of affairs for local farmers could be exacerbated by the implementation of Africa’s free trade agreement, which, in many cases, eliminates some of the protection for struggling domestic industries, including horticulture.
However, trade and industrialisation ministry spokesperson Elijah Mukubonda noted that while the World Trade Organisation prohibits quantitative restrictions, there are indeed provisions that protect countries from surges in imports that could be detrimental to local production.
In this regard, Namibia may suggest anti-dumping measures when import surges threaten local industries.
Source : ALLAFRICA