Another dry season could devastate Maize Triangle

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Windhoek

This is the conclusion reached by Chairperson of the Agronomic Producers Association (APA), Gernot Eggert on the eve of the new planting season for white maize, staple diet of Namibians. He told Farmers Forum that another season of erratic and sporadic rainfall like last season will mean the end of the road for most producers in the triangle between Grootfontein, Otavi and Tsumeb where less than one-third of producers received normal rainfall last season, resulting in just more than 9 000 hectares being planted and contributing only a drop towards Namibia’s average annual white maize harvest of some 70 000 tonnes.

Eggert says the combined effects of the drought of 2013, and last year’s devastating dry spell, will prove just one too much for maize producers in the Maize Triangle who are all struggling with a cash-flow problem, worsened by the fact that no clear directive has been received by the APA as to how much drought aid producers in the Maize Triangle will receive to supply them with much needed seeds and fertilisers. Input costs of producers on average amount to N$4 500 per hectare, and because of last season’s dismal crops, producers have already lost millions of dollars.

A dismal total maize production of some 37 000 tonnes was achieved last season due to the patchy rainfall that left less than five percent of producers countrywide with normal rainfall. The bulk of last season’s production came from the wet-land producers in Hardap, Kavango and Zambesi regions. Coordinator of the Namibian Agronomic Board, Antoinette Venter, confirmed the predicament of dry land white maize producers, saying they are ready to plant and just waiting for rain and the promised government aid.

A shadow of gloom and doom was also cast over communal water-fed crop farming areas across Namibia. The same bleak picture has unfolded in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) where mahangu and maize crops dropped drastically to all-time lows and resulted in government forking out some N$55 million for drought food aid. Namibia had to import close to 210 000 tonnes of cereals this year as more than 570 000 Namibians were left in urgent aid of drought relief food.

Great concern has been expressed in all regions about rain propescts, except the Hardap, where average to above average harvests of both maize and wheat under irrigation are expected. The Maize Triangle and Summerdown area is where most of the country’s dry land maize is produced, but producers are still battling to establish a national insurance policy in partnership with government as these producers do not qualify for any insurance due to the high risks of dry land crop farming.

Ground nuts are also under pressure but the more drought resistant nature thereof means that producers expect a slightly better crop. The economic impact of poorer maize harvests, which are also expected in South Africa, is divergent and includes the possibility of more expensive fodder to a decrease in weaner prices as the feeding costs of feed lots increase.

Last year, harvest shot up to 68 213 tonnes and some 55 000 tonnes of white maize was available in the market while the rest was stored in government silos as provision in times of emergency. But these stocks have been seriously depleted by now and stand at about 34 percent of full capacity.

Last season, the Maize Triangle delivered a measly 2 000 tonnes of white maize at the end of July while 35 176 tonnes of white maize was harvested last season from a total of 8 079 hectares planted in dry land crop areas across the country. The Kavango harvested a much needed 17 626 tonnes from 2 203 hectares under irrigation and the Hardap Region contributed some 9 000 tonnes from 900 hectares planted to the total of 68 213 tonnes of white maize.

In the central and eastern parts 4 212 tonnes of white maize was harvested from 1 295 hectares planted in dry land areas and 1 138 hectares under irrigation. The Omusati Region contributed 2 260 tonnes of white maize from 410 hectares planted. The Zambezi’s contribution was just less than 5 000 tonnes of white maize.
Namibia was cited recently as the SADC country that has recorded the biggest increase in food insecurity with an eleven-fold increase.

Namibia uses 150 000 tonnes of the global maize consumption of 840 million tonnes, and Namibia relies on South African imports of about 130 000 tonnes to supply its population of some 2,2 million people.

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