Potato, onion scheme gaining momentum

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WINDHOEK – The production of fresh fruit and vegetables in Namibia is on the increase.

According to statistics from the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB), the national turnover of fresh produce increased in value from N$ 55million in the third quarter of 2013 to N$ 87 million in the third quarter of 2014. During the same period in 2014, 52 % of the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in Namibia were produced locally. This feat is attributed to borders being closed for the import of onions and potatoes under the provisions made for a Special Potato and Onion Scheme. “The agronomic sector in our country is seeing tremendous growth and the role of the Namibian Agronomic Board in creating an environment for the sector to thrive has been very important. This is evident in the way that locally produced potatoes and onions are marketed,” says Fidelis Mwazi, previously the National Horticulture Manager at the NAB. Mwazi makes reference to the Special Potato and Onion Agreement that was concluded between the Potato and Onion Producers Association (POPA) and the Namibian Association of Traders in Fresh Produce (NATFP) in November 2013. The Agreement was implemented on 1 April 2014 with the objectives of:

  • Providing marketing assurance to the local potato and onion production industry;
  • Providing a consistent and continued availability of potatoes and onions in the Namibian market, and specifically in the retail market on the basis of short and long term sustainability;
  • Stimulating potato and onion production in Namibia and to promote domestic sales of Namibian produced potatoes and onions; and
  • Sourcing locally produced potatoes and onions provided they are the correct quality, grade and quantity.

The Agreement makes provision for the production and purchase of Grade One normal medium, large medium and large potatoes and Grade One  normal small-medium, medium and large onions for consumption in Namibia. Exclusions to the Agreement include extra-large onions, small onions, pickled onions, red onions, spring onions and washed baby potatoes.

The administration of the new scheme necessitated the NAB to split the normal import permit requirements for fruit and vegetables and develop a special permit for potatoes and onions only. “This effectively means that the potato and onion industry are now subject to more intense administration and management at the NAB,” says Mwazi.  He adds that they have to keep track of local consumption and whether producers are able to meet market needs. This market demand and production capability equation is reviewed every two weeks and if local production is sufficient, no special permits for the import of potatoes and onions are issued,” he adds.  When a special potato and onion import permit is issued, it is valid for only 14 days, which gives the NAB an opportunity to gauge local capacity for the next two week cycle.

The implementation of the Special Potato and Onion Scheme is so successful that the border was closed for the importation of onions from June 2014 to the end of December 2014, which was a boost to local onion producers and shows that during the onion production season, total self-sufficiency for this commodity is possible. Between April and August 2014, potatoes and onions were exported due to overproduction. An overproduction of 383 tonnes of potatoes was achieved to an export value of N$ 1 567 000.00 while onions achieved an export value of N$ 13 340 640.00 with 3 191 tonnes of overproduction. “This is positive for the agronomic industry in Namibia,” Mwazi says, adding “because with the success of this scheme, we’ll start including other commodities which will stimulate production even more and take us one step closer to being less dependent on imports of the food that we can easily grow locally”.

The Horticulture Market Share Promotion under which the Special Potato and Onion Scheme was established, will be implemented at the Agricultural Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), where Mwazi has been appointed Senior Manager: Market Promotion and Research, where he will continue to undertake the challenge of driving the development of the horticultural marketing industry to the greater heights. For more information on the Special Potato and Onion Scheme, contact Fidelis Mwazi, Senior Manager: Market Promotion and Research on (061) 37 9500.

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