Food imports running into billions of dollars could be a thing of the past if the government endorses the new comprehensive integrated agriculture development programme that will before the end of this month be submitted to the prime minister and eventually to Cabinet by the agriculture ministry.
This was revealed on Monday to Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo by Percy Misika, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, at Shadikongoro green scheme irrigation project, 180km east of Rundu in Kavango East Region, when Iyambo visited the project.
Misika informed Iyambo about the new agriculture development programme when the project manager at Shadikongoro expressed concern about local farmers still enduring a lack of market access for their produce, as South African retail shops still preferred to import tomatoes, onions, cabbages and other produce from South Africa at the expense of Namibian agriculture producers.
During the consultative meeting with Danie Marais, the Shadikongoro project manager, also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa and Kavango East Governor Dr Samuel Mbambo, Iyambo expressed concern that local retailers still stocked their shops with vegetables imported from South Africa, this despite the fact that local projects produce quality produce.
Misika said the agriculture ministry would before the end of next week present to the Office of the Prime Minister the comprehensive integrated agriculture development programme detailing the amount of food that local farmers and green schemes produce and how much food is consumed.
Briefing the vice-president, Misika said the integrated agriculture development programme contains information on what kind of food is produced locally, and details how much of each of the food items Namibia consumes and how much of each food item is imported.
In a brief interview with New Era after the meeting with the vice-president, Misika said food imports whose transactions are usually in American dollars and euros deplete the country’s much needed foreign currency, in most cases buying agricultural produce that is farmed locally.
He emphasised that the integrated agriculture development programme, besides enabling the ministry to know how much of the strategic food is produced locally, will detail how much food green schemes and commercial farmers could sell to local markets and to institutions such as the police and prisons for feeding inmates, Namibian Defence Force, school feeding programme, hospitals, the food bank, and how much is needed for the strategic food reserve.
“If these government institutions that have significant purchasing power can buy directly from local producers of agriculture commodities, I can assure you that Namibia in five years can turn from a net food-importing country to a net food-exporting country, which should be our goal,” he enthused.
“Instead of us now subsidising fertilisers, subsidising seed, subsidising ploughing services – we don’t need to do that because if we have these government institutions having contracts to buy from farmers, then with these contracts our farmers can go to financial institutions and get his or her loan to buy seeds, buy fertilisers, and when he sells to these institutions they pay him and he then repays back the loan. So the current government subsidy that we have can then be utilised for asset acquisition whereby farmers are helped to buy tractors, to buy ploughs, to buy farming equipment or even irrigation systems – that is the programme we are coming up with,” he elaborated.