Grapes to grow into billion-dollar industry

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Matheus Hamutenya

Keetmanshoop-With more land being cleared to make way for new vineyards the export value of seedless Namibian grapes is expected to reach the billion-dollar mark this year.

The grape industry keeps expanding as more companies set up vineyards, which not only means job opportunities for many unemployed people but also contributes significantly to the gross domestic product, and this year’s production could rake in record-setting revenue of N$1 billion.

//Kharas Governor Lucia Basson during her state of the region address on Monday said the grape industry has seen significant and rapid growth since 2015, mand as more land is under production year by year, more income is expected.

She indicated that currently 1,729 hectares of land are under production in the region, of which 1,453 hectares are at Aussenkehr where most Namibian table grapes come from.

This figure is expected to increase to more than 2,200 hectares by the end of this year, which will also result in increased income.

“During the financial year 2015/16 the total export value of table grapes was estimated at N$666 million, which is estimated to reach N$1 billion by the end of 2017,” she said.

Although excited at the huge potential of the grape industry, the //Kharas political head expressed disappointment in the lack of value addition to Namibian grapes. She said that adding value by producing grape juice and wine can create more jobs, and “this should be an area that should be explored”.

She also expressed concern over the deplorable living conditions of grape workers in general and particularly those at Aussenkehr, noting that residents live in squalid conditions in reed houses and still use the open veld when nature calls, which she said should not be the scenario for the booming industry.

“Their living conditions have been an eyesore to every head of state who has ever visited the area,” she said.

She said in an effort to rectify the situation, the //Kharas Regional Council entered a public-private partnership (PPP) with three companies that will assist in developing the area and once completed, Aussenkehr will be able to accommodate 40,000 residents in modern housing, with access to schools, shopping malls and medical facilities.

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