The crop production sub sector of agriculture has an abundance of niche opportunities that are yet to be exploited. A brief overview of the country’s horticulture industry indicates that local production accounted for about N$240 274 807, with total imports being valued at about N$417 675 765 and local consumption of horticultural commodities being about N$657 950 772 during the 2018/2019 financial year as per the Namibia Agronomic Board‘s statistics.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, about 28 887 tons of White maize was produced locally, whereas 171 031 tons was imported from other countries.
The total local consumption of White maize as a staple food stood at about 199 918 tons. These statistics indicate an opportunity for local producers to upscale production, substitute imports and contribute to the local economy.
Crop production as a sub sector has various opportunities that can be exploited by farmers and business people, the following are some of the areas of opportunities that can be taken into consideration:
Production of high earning cash crops
Farmers can focus their production on crops that are in high demand and those that earn a high per kg price. Good examples would be producing potatoes, peppers (red, yellow & green), cucumbers, and crops such as garlic and ginger that have seen increased consumption rates due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Supplying of agricultural inputs
As more people become involved in primary crop production, many farmers struggle with obtaining the necessary inputs required.
Fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, pesticides and irrigation systems are some of the basic inputs needed by those involved in primary crop production. In some instances, farmers travel long distances to purchase these inputs. It would be of vital importance to bring this critical service to the proximity of farmers.
This would ensure that farmers focus on production while having easy access to inputs needed
at each stage of their production journey.
Namibia has a well-established livestock sector that supplies beef to overseas markets such as the EU, China and the United States of America. Many livestock farmers in Namibia rely heavily on feed supplements that are imported mostly from South Africa.
During the dry season (May to November) livestock farmers spend about N$367.95 per 50kg bag of dry veld concentrate lick supplements. This presents an opportunity for farmers to grow lucerne and grass during this period, as a lot of livestock farmers would be willing to spend about N$147.95 per 22kg bale of either green grass or lucerne.
This could be a sustainable operation that is yet to be fully exploited locally.
In most remote and rural areas of Namibia, mechanised agriculture that utilises the use of machinery such as tractors is still a major problem.
On average, a tractor can serve about 3 000 farmers or more in each constituency, this is an opportunity that would offer income to someone who would focus on the rendering of ploughing services.
A crucial point to remember is that during the rainy season, most farmers experience delays to get assisted with ploughing services from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Land Reform (MAWLR).
One can be financed by Agribank to purchase tractors and their implements to render ploughing services to many small-scale farmers.
Seed producers (seed multipliers)
The government of Namibia through the Directorate of Agricultural Production, Extension & Engineering Services (DAPEES) periodically supplies seeds to farmers that produce crops under the Dryland Crop Production Programme (DCCP).
An opportunity exists for farmers to become producers of seeds and multipliers of certain Pearl Millet (mahangu) varieties that are adapted to local conditions.
This will ensure that in each cropping season all farmers receive seeds on time and avoid the procurement of seeds from other countries.
Development of markets through organised markets
Namibia imports quite a significant quantity of its fruits and vegetables from South Africa, with an estimated 85% of these commodities being imports.
One aspect that needs to be understood is that once local farmers are not organized to be able to supply the right quantities of vegetables and fruits to retailers consistently, retailers view local farmers as a risk.
But if farmers are organised into production groups that supply the right amounts of the demanded commodities in a consistent manner.
Retailers may be in a position to reduce the costs they incur to import and transport these commodities from South Africa.
This would create a sustainable market for local farmers, boosting their income levels and increase the contribution of agriculture to GDP.
Let us all learn to prioritise food production in our country.
This will ensure that more people can be afforded employment in the many subsectors of agriculture from primary production to the processing of commodities.
A nation that feeds itself can afford to earn foreign currency from sales of surplus to other countries.
Lastly, aspiring farmers in need of financial assistance and advice on increasing productivity and capacity are encouraged to visit the nearest Agribank of Namibia’s offices.
* Hanks Saisai is Technical Advisor: Crops & Poultry at Agribank.