Crop farmers optimistic about recovery in 2017

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Published by New Era on September 1, 2016

Given that the exceptional decline in white maze production in Namibia’s dryland maize areas in 2016 was largely a result of the drought as opposed to economic considerations, maize producers and the Namibian Agronomic Board are cautiously optimistic about a rather strong recovery in 2017 and up to 2020.

While all eyes in the northern crop producing regions are on the skies looking for the first signs of rain, the Namibian Agronomic Board and various role players will shed more information about prospects in the coming weeks with various meetings, including one with the Grain Producers Association today.

During the recently held Bureau of Food and Agriculture Policy (BFAP) Outlook Conference in South Africa, it was predicted that the bulk of a decline after 2020 would be attributed to white maize as producers continue to move into yellow maize and oilseeds in response to rising demand for animal feed.

Maize consumption in the animal feed sector is projected to expand by almost 2 per cent per annum over the 10-year period between 2017 and 2026. Demand for maize consumed as food is strong in the short term, as cash-strapped consumers switch to the cheapest possible source of starch, but in the medium term, as income growth recovers, maize food demand would stagnate due to substitution by alternative starches such as rice and bread.

“Namibia imports on average 160 000 tonnes of white maize per annum from South Africa and this year won’t be any different,” says administrator of the NAB, Antoinette Venter. This is due to the devastating low yields of this year in the Maize Triangle area of Otavi, Grootfontein and Tsumeb and all other dryland production areas.

Namibia’s 2015 maize crop was 44 per cent lower compared to 2014’s above-average output, according to figures released by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). It noted that around half of all dryland commercial farmers experienced total crop losses as a result of the drought. Figures indicate a slight improvement on last season’s harvest but which is still below the average production. It was noted that maize production in the communal areas of Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions showed a slight improvement of about 2 per cent on last season’s harvest, but is 62 per cent below the average production.

Similarly maize harvest prospects in the commercial areas indicated a slight improvement of 2 per cent higher than last season’s harvest but is 35 per cent below the average production. Mahangu (pearl millet) production showed a significant improvement of 46 per cent on last season’s harvest, but is 39 per cent below the average production. Sorghum production showed a negative outlook with its harvest expected to drop by 68 per cent below average, and 17 per cent lower than last season’s harvest.

Pearl millet production showed a significant improvement of 46 per cent on last season’s harvest, but is 39 per cent below the average production. This improvement is based on the good crop germinations reported in Omusati, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango East and Kavango West regions. Household food security continued to weaken in various parts of all the regions. More than 600 000 Namibians are now reliant on government’s extended drought food aid.

Role players say the resilience and the ability of the sector to recover from an exogenous shock like a drought are determined by a combination of key underlying fundamentals that are linked to the long-term competitiveness of the industry.