Namibian Agronomy Needs Shielding

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Trade Advisor at the Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF), Jurgen Hoffman, on Tuesday said Namibia was not developed enough to be exposed to uncontrolled liberalisation of its agronomic trade. Hoffman was speaking at a special function held to mark the 21st anniversary of the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB). The Namibian Agronomic Board had since its inception used its regulatory powers to shield Namibian producers of controlled crops from marketing and price shocks in the southern African region. These price and supply movements were mostly the result of either planned or already implemented trade liberalisation in the region. “The Namibian agronomic sector would not be able to develop under these uncertainties and it is one of the most important functions of the board to isolate its producers and processors from untimely supply and price shocks,” he said. In a country with limited natural resources, price changes of up to 100% in a year’s time would kill all crop production – except production meant for household use. Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Nicky Iyambo, as the minister responsible for the Namibian Agronomic Board was guest of honour at the anniversary celebrations. In his speech Hoffman noted that the structure and size of the agronomic board had changed significantly in the 21 years since it was founded on April 10, 1985. Board membership grew from eight members and two co-opted members to the present 14 board members and seven co-opted members and advisors. Due to financial constraints and the high cost of holding board meetings, the board seats were not always all filled. The minister however granted special permission relaxing the requirement to fill all seats. The board in earlier days was composed of mainly white commercial farming interests, but they were now in a minority. “Balanced representation of the agronomic sector was achieved for the first time in the 2006 board composition.” Hoffman nevertheless pointed out that some have questioned whether the present membership of the board was representative enough. He suggested other equally important stakeholders in the agronomic value chain – processors of controlled products felt under-represented. The agronomic board had taken on many new functions in the agronomic and horticultural sectors. It also acts as project implementation agency for projects of the agriculture ministry and NGOs. The board’s broad objectives still remain the same. These are to promote the agronomic industry and to facilitate the production, processing, storage and marketing of controlled agricultural crops in Namibia. “The objectives of national food security and of food self-sufficiency – where possible – can only be aspired to if the present regulatory powers of the board can be maintained.” “The board has been able to retain and expand on its regulatory powers to the benefit of the agronomic value chain for all controlled products.” Hoffman pointed out that the Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF) had now taken over many NAB functions. The ATF reports to and is partially financed by the Namibian Agronomic Board.

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