KEETMANSHOOP - There is a saying when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers and this is what has happened to Namibian grapes as bigger American grape producers have grabbed Namibia’s European market share because the Americans cannot sell their grapes to China.
China and America are involved in a tit-for-tat trade war as each country continues to dispute tariffs placed on goods traded between them largely because President Donald Trump is fulfilling an election campaign promise that he made to fix what he claims is China’s “long-time abuse of the broken international system and unfair practices”, a claim vehemently dismissed by Beijing. The Namibian grape industry has grown over the years both in
terms of employment opportunities created and it generates almost N$1 billion and Namibian grape farmers who export mainly to the EU say with such an expansion, it is also time to conquer the lucrative Chinese market.
Most Namibian grapes are currently exported to EU countries, but farmers say entry into the Chinese market will help the local grape industry expand even more, as it is bigger and more attractive than the current markets.
Namibian Grape Growers Association chairperson Nico van der Merwe in an interview with New Era said although the grape industry is doing well, with about 7 million, 4.5 kilograms cartons of grapes expected during this year’s harvest, with an expected revenue of N$800 million entering into the Chinese market will be a breakthrough that will expand the industry astronomically.
“China can consume all our current grape exports to EU in three days, that is how strong the market is, so if we have this market, the grape industry can expand tremendously, negotiations into this will continue in January and we are getting good backing from government but we just need to prioritise this and finalise it,” he enthused.
He said entering China will mean exporting more grapes which will mean more production and more job opportunities for Namibians, noting that the industry currently employs about 15 000 permanent and seasonal workers. Van der Merwe also noted that currently, the trade war between China and America has had a bit of negative impact on the grape exports as the market is not as favourable as in the past, due to the USA not exporting grapes to Chinese market due to high tariffs, which has compelled the Americans to sell to Namibian markets in the EU.
“Namibia is suffering market loss due to the trade war between USA and China, USA shipped a lot of volumes to EU which was normally destined for China due to the elevated tariff increase and USA had no choice but to penetrate the major Namibian markets,” he said.
He further expressed concerns with the water management saying while farmers depend on the Orange River for irrigation purposes, farmers have experienced losses due to water shortages as not enough water was released for usage and thus he called for South Africa and Namibia to ensure that water is available at all times.
“For some reason, we sometimes do not get enough water during the busy season and this has had financial implications for farmers before, the water quality is also bad when the water level in the river is very low, so we need to manage the water to have constant flow,” he said.