Fruit and Veg Importers Face Restrictions

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Importers of horticulture produce will now have to buy 15 percent of their requirements locally before importing from elsewhere. Those that fail to meet the requirements will face import restrictions. This follows an introduction of new import permits for produce, which importers have to comply with before they can bring in any fruits and vegetables from outside Namibia. The local purchase requirement has been increased from 12.5 percent to 15 percent as from October 1, 2006. Horticulture produce imports have been declared restricted products since it was gazetted in July 2006. Retailers that hold permits issued by the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB) are exempted. Providing local producers access to the local market has been a high priority for the National Horticulture Development Initiative (NHDI), which was established after the gazetting of fruits and vegetables under the Agronomic Industry Act of 1992. To operationalise the activities of the NHDI, effect import substitution and also promote export marketing of local produce, the National Horticulture Task Team (NHTT) was formed. And in an effort to speed up the process and assist the local producers for the interim period till the market floor will be established, the NHTT decided to implement a horticulture market share promotion. The objective of this import permit system, called the Namibian Horticulture Market Share Promotion, is to encourage importers of fresh fruit and vegetables to source these products locally as far as possible, thus promoting local production. Since then, importers have to source a certain minimum percentage of their horticulture purchases from local producers before they will be allowed to import fresh fruit and vegetables from neighbouring countries. Since the NHTT implemented the market share promotion three years ago with the aim of opening up the market to local producers to get a foot into large supermarkets, not many retailers have been buying local produce. NAB Horticulture Manager Namene Kalili told New Era yesterday that even though the local purchase has gone up to 20 percent, some retailers were not buying as much local produce as they should. Over the years, the market share promotion mechanism requirements have gradually increased from 3 percent to 5, 7.5, 10 and currently 12.5 percent. This has had profound effects on the marketability of local produce in that when the measures were introduced, domestic purchases were as low as 9 percent but in the past 15 months, the purchases have increased from 16 percent to 21 percent. Namibia has over 300 producers nationwide generating 60 000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables on 2 000 hectares of land, on which about 2 000 full-time employees work. The NHTT’s strategies increased production from 26 000 in 2003 to 39 000 in 2004 and 60 000 in 2005. The market at present requires about 59 000 tones of fresh produce. Kalili said even with this initiative in place, Namibia still has to import horticulture products worth N$180 million because it cannot grow certain fruits such as apples, pears and plums. While potatoes and onions are grown locally, these are only for three to four months a year. Kalili said the other problems include the lack of storage facilities, which leads to exporting some of the fruits only to import them at a later stage. Imported fruit and vegetables contribute approximately 86 percent to the total local consumption of horticultural produce.