By Irene !Hoaes
Top Namibian banker Vekuii Rukoro says Government must conduct a credible audit of productivity of all farms, including resettlement farms and commercial farms, in order to address the food shortages and high prices in the country.
“What are they doing – is it just weekend retreats for the rich and famous only or are they really productive? What are we doing with our resettlement farms,” Rukoro asked at a breakfast meeting looking at the rising food prices in the country and worldwide.
The Chief Executive Officer of First National Bank Holdings Namibia is of the opinion that in the long term, food production will be linked to the access and availability of land.
Rukoro said zero rating on certain products are short-term measures only, therefore serious government intervention is needed in order to boost local agricultural productivity to become self-sufficient.
Rukoro said Namibia has a small population and has no reason to be dependent on imports, advising Government to take well-planned policy interventions and support both communal and commercial farmers to boost productivity.
The banker said agriculture is the backbone of any developing economy and should be prioritized.
“Namibia is a net food importer and is thus severely affected by rising food prices,” Rukoro said.
Currently about 80 percent of Namibia’s food is imported from neighbouring South Africa.
The Dar Es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security signed in May 2004 calls for national budgets to allocate ten percent of the budget to agriculture. However, Namibia allocates less than six percent towards the sector.
“At last year’s congress we already asked Government to increase the budget to ten percent because it is important for industrialization of the country as well as to achieve Vision 2030,” said the Executive Manager of the Namibia Agricultural Union, (NAU) Sacky Coetzee also present at the meeting.
He further urged Government to support emerging commercial and resettlement farmers.
“The NAU is now doing the work of the extension officers. It is not only our responsibility, it is also the responsibility of Government,” Coetzee added.
He called for security of land tenure and investment, also adding that commercial farmers are uneasy about farm expropriation taking place in the country.
Coetzee is of the opinion that there should be a regional approach to food security management, while there should be increased production through the Green Scheme and commercializing communal areas.
Currently, 4,5 million hectares of communal land are underutilized in the country, hence Coetzee said there are many opportunities and possibilities to address the current situation.
Coetzee said that the current situation is the failure of global economic governance thus the solution should be global.