Horticulture Problems

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Agronomic Board Tackles Storage, Marketing By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Lack of storage facilities for locally produced horticulture products is restricting the country’s self-sufficiency in the supply of fruit and vegetables. While production in the six areas of Caprivi, Ka-vango, Karstland, North Central, Central and Southern areas has substantially increased from 26 000 tonnes in 2003 to 60 000 tonnes in 2005, the Namibian market can only accommodate 45 000 tonnes. Faced with a lack of marketing and storage facilities, the country has to export its excess produce during peak times and then import during low seasons. Chairperson of the Namibia Horticulture Task Team (NHTT), Vilho Hi-pondoka told the first full meeting of the Namibia Agronomic Board on Friday that storage facilities, the reluctance of financial institutions to fund horticulture initiatives, technical expertise and low local consumption are the main challenges facing the industry. President Hifike-punye Pohamba opened the board meeting. The first phase for erection of market and storage facilities for Windhoek and two regional hubs will cost N$120 million. The regional hubs will be established in the North Central regions and Kavango. Hipondoka said financial institutions especially State-owned ones remain reluctant to fund fruit and vegetable growers because they see horticulture as a non-traditional business venture. Another challenge facing the industry is lack of technical expertise and the low local demand for fruits and vegetables. Local consumption of horticulture products currently stands at 72 g, which translates into half an apple a day. When the National Horticulture Development Initiative was establishment in September 2002, producers, according to Hipondoka, not only had difficulties in obtaining markets and shelf space for their produce but also faced stiff competition from international produce. Among other objectives, the NHTT was established to effect market substitution and promote market export. To this end, the initiative implemented the Market Share Promotion mechanism that requires all importers of fresh produce to initially buy a certain percentage of local produce before obtaining an import permit. This mechanism now requires importers to buy 12.5 percent locally, a figure that has increased domestic purchase of fruits and vegetables from 16 percent to 21 percent in the past 15 months. Plans are in the pipeline to increase the domestic purchase requirement and also to determine the ceiling for the requirement. Hipondoka said the initiative is now about to become self-sustaining from levies on sale and importation of fruits and vegetables. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry funded the initiative to the tune of N$5.6 million, while local contribution stands at N$5.85 million. Namibia has over 300 producers who generate 60 000 tonnes of fruits and 2 000 tonnes of vegetables and employ 2 000 full-time workers. This excludes employment figures of grape farms at Aussenkehr. Once the Green Scheme is operational, Hipondoka envisages the number of farmers, the land they cultivate and the number of employees to increase.