Late rains have dramatically changed the expectations of the total white maize harvest from the Maize Triangle and immediate environs.
The total maize harvest is now projected at more than 44 000 tonnes, after 9 391 hectares were planted countrywide. Almost 4 400 hectares were planted in the Maize Triangle, the traditional breadbasket of the country. Some 16 120 tonnes are now expected from this area.
Confirming the vast improvement from the first preliminary wheat production report some two weeks ago that estimated a dismal total harvest of some 33 000 tonnes, Antoinette Venter, administrative wheat and maize manager of the Namibian Agronomic Board, says 44 657 tonnes are now expected from rain-fed and irrigation areas.
The vastly increased projection will be the result of 3 609 hectares planted in the Maize Triangle, while 2 262 hectares planted under irrigation in the Kavango regions will contribute some 17 000 tonnes of maize.
About 1 350 hectares were planted in the central and eastern areas near Summerdown and 2 609 tonnes is expected from there. Another 102 hectares are under irrigation in the central and east regions and more than 1 000 tonnes of maize is expected from these areas.
No accurate figures could be obtained for the Zambezi Region, but 1 000 tonnes of maize is expected to be harvested there.
In total, the dry-land (rain-fed) areas will produce 12 330 tonnes of maize from a total of 4 961 hectares planted, while the total harvest from irrigation projects is expected to be 32 327 tonnes from 4 430 hectares planted.
In the Hardap and environs 650 ha are under irrigation, with an expected yield of 5 850 tonnes. Some 262 ha were planted in the Kavango East and West regions and the total contribution from these areas are 17 0007 tonnes.
Given the scenario, Namibia will most probably have to import some 140 000 tonnes of maize to fill the gap in the market due to poor rainfall in the current planting season. Last year the country had to import 210 000 tonnes of cereal to keep hunger at bay.
“Namibia has produced slightly more maize locally than was at first expected. The latest report reflects that and the expected 44 000 tonnes is a vast improvement on the initially 33 000 tonnes we expected,” she noted.
Namibia’s 2015 maize crop was 44% lower than 2014’s above-average output, according to the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). It noted that around half of all dry-land commercial farmers experienced total crop losses as a result of the drought and high temperatures.
An estimated 600 000 people are food insecure and are the target of a government drought relief programme, worth some N$910 million.
South Africa is the biggest victim of the lingering drought. It is the region’s main maize producer, but last year output fell 30% below the bumper 2014 season and it may have to import around six million tonnes of maize.
Planting of the 2016 cereal crop also began later than normal due to delayed rains, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
“The region is ill-prepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks, high food prices, and substantially increased numbers of food insecure people,” the UN agency added.
Meanwhile, local millers Namib Mills and Bokomo announced price increases on all their product categories earlier this year with warnings of more food price increases to come.
CEO of the Namibia Agronomic Board Christoff Brock last week assured Namibians that maize products would be available on shop shelves, “but the affordability thereof, is another story,” he commented.