At the moment, the National Strategic Food Reserve Facility (NSFRF) has 4 000 metric tons, which translates into 17% of the total capacity of 22 900 metric tons.
Out of the 4 000 tons, 3 000 is maize and 1 000 is pearl millet (mahangu).
Last year, the Agro Marketing and Trade Agency (Amta) procured about 1 300 tons of mahangu and about 3 200 tons of white maize from more than 1 400 smallholder farmers and government’s green scheme projects.
The farmers have been selling their surplus maize and mahangu to Amta over the years, as the marketing season begins on 1 May until the end of October.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko told New Era that the current available grains (17%) is a carry-over from last year’s harvest.
According to him, the government (through Amta) is yet to procure grains this year after the harvest has been completed.
Asked whether government anticipates a bumper harvest countrywide, Musheko said the ministry’s early warning on food security team has just concluded the Crop and Food Security Assessment in the communal crop producing areas on 7 June 2021 and is currently compiling the report.
“Early indications of the 2020/2021 cropping seasons based on the preliminary crop assessment that was carried out in February 2021 were suggesting a bumper harvest, as the crop producing regions noted good crop germinations amidst slight delay in the onset of the 2020/2021 rainfall season,” he indicated.
However, he noted, following the just ended assessment, the ministry currently cannot confirm whether the country is expecting a bumper harvest or not due to some variables which were found to be highly significant and have a direct bearing on the overall crop harvest.
He mentioned prolonged and severe dry spells (during February and most of March) in the north central regions (Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto).
The other factor is drought in the Kunene region, and sporadic cases of excessive rainfall experienced in the northeastern regions (Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi) as well as pests, particularly the African migratory red locust, which invaded the north and northeast, as well as rodents and Quelea birds.
Although good rains were recorded this year, it also created favourable conditions for devastating pest outbreaks such as the African migratory red locust, which have left a trail of destruction to crops and vegetation, threatening food security and livelihoods of the inhabitants in the northeastern part of the country.
Evidently, drought conditions continue to prevail in the northwestern part of the country, especially the western parts of Kunene, Erongo and Omusati regions, affecting water availability, crop and grazing conditions.
Musheko confirmed the assessment team is currently evaluating the impacts of the variables on the overall crop harvest and is expected to provide the report by early July 2021.
On Covid-19 impacts on the agricultural sector, he said at this stage, the ministry would not be able to determine with certainty the negative effects of Covid-19 on the communal and commercial farmers until such a time an impact assessment is carried out.
“However, preliminary findings point to issues of availability of key inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides to farmers which was delayed because of closure of borders which negatively impacted agriculture production-earlier during the cropping season. Like any other sector, the impact on labour is also a concern as farmworkers are being sick or in isolation and this eventually affects production,” Musheko said.
According to the SADC regional response to Covid-19 pandemic with the focus on health, and nutrition, food security and livelihoods sectors, member states and all agricultural stakeholders are urged to prioritise the protection of farmers from Covid-19 infection, as they form the bedrock for national food security and household nutrition.
Since March 2020 to date, the ministry, as the sector leader has been issuing out directives to all stakeholders in the agriculture, water and land with regards to movement of role-players in the mentioned sectors rendering critical services during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
These directives allowed key players to continue rendering services such as food production, provision of water services, food transportation, transportation of animal and animal feed to and from farms and permits to allow livestock auctions.