Staff Reporter Windhoek-Erratic rainfall since November last year in the Maize Triangle is threatening to destroy what could have been a 31 000 tons’ contribution to a bumper harvest season of almost 69 000 tons of white maize, staple diet of Namibians. As prospects of regular rains after Christmas 2017 fell flat, a somber atmosphere now grips the producers in this area between Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi known as the Bread Basket of Namibia. All signs originally pointed to a big recovery this season after consecutive droughts forced Namibia to import some 180 000 tons of cereal and declare two drought food aid years. In October last year, the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) predicted a bumper harvest of close to 69 000 tons for this season at the end of July, but those figures are now seriously doubted as the rains stayed away at the beginning of the planting season since November. Producers played a waiting game as forecasts predicted better rains after Christmas but those hopes of planting some 9 000 hectares are now dwindling as the planting season comes to an end. Chairperson of the Agronomic Producers Association (APA), Gernot Eggert was a worried man when New Era spoke to him yesterday. “January 27 is regarded as the last day of successful planting in The Maize Triangle, provided we have sufficient soil moisture. This is absolutely not the case and many producers just don’t know which way to go. If it rains from today and we get consistent follow-up showers, they stand a chance to still reap a decent harvest. If they plant now and the rains do not come, it’s all over for them. Another season of erratic and sporadic rainfall like in the past few years will mean the end of the road for most producers in the triangle. At this stage, less than one-third of producers received normal rainfall last season, and the trend continues. That could mean a serious decline in planting and producers will only be able to contribute a drop towards Namibia’s average annual white maize harvest of some 70 000 tons before the drought of 2013 struck,” he lamented. Eggert says the combined effects of the droughts since 2013 will prove just one too much for maize producers in the Maize Triangle who are all struggling with a cash-flow problems. Input costs of producers on average amount to N$4 500 per hectare, and because of the dismal crops of the past few years, producers have already lost millions of dollars. The same bleak picture unfolded in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) where mahangu and maize crops dropped drastically to all-time lows and resulted in government forking out some N$55 million twice for drought food aid. Namibia had to import close to 210 000 tons of cereals annually since 2013 and almost 70 000 Namibians were left in urgent need of drought relief food in 2016. Less than 800 tons of white maize is now expected from the Omusati region and environs. Great concern has been expressed in all regions about rain prospects, except the Hardap, where average to above average harvests of both maize and wheat under irrigation are expected. The Maize Triangle and Summerdown area is where most of the country’s dry land maize is produced, but producers are still battling to establish a national insurance policy in partnership with government as these producers do not qualify for any insurance due to the high risks of dry land crop farming. The central and east areas are now expected to contribute some 5 200 tons of white maize. Hopes are pinned on the Kavango region bringing in a much needed 21 388 tons while the Zambezi region is expected to contribute more than 4 500 tons. Hardap and environs (irrigation) will harvest in excess of 5 700 tons. Namibia was cited recently as the SADC country that has recorded the biggest increase in food insecurity with an eleven-fold increase. Namibia uses 150 000 tons of the global maize consumption of 840 million tons, and Namibia relies on South African imports of about 160 000 tons annually to supply its population of some 2,3 million.
2018-01-16 09:56:48 8 months ago