Downpours in March up to last weekend were too late to enable a further contribution to the expected total harvest of about 52,000 tonnes of white maize this season.
Despite the massive boost for white maize plants which are now in seed and need lots of rain, especially in areas north of Grootfontein, producers planted only half of the somewhat 10,000 hectares available in the maize triangle due to sporadic and erratic rainfall since the planting season started at the end of last year.
Producers in the Summerdown area also reached their most critical stage of the current season in late January, when insufficient rains reduced planting to a minimum. Producers in the rain-fed crop areas only planted some 5,000 hectares this season due to the late and erratic rains since November last year.
Despite the chairperson of the Namibia Agronomic Producers Organisation, Gernot Egger, being elated on behalf of some of the producers who received excellent and consistent downpours up to last week, he still is concerned about the overall situation, saying the main rain-fed crop areas usually plant in excess of 10,000 hectares and with just 5,000 hectares now planted, a dismal harvest is again expected.
The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) originally predicted a total harvest in excess of 68,000 tonnes for this year, but things changed drastically when the rains dried up at the most critical times last year as planting got underway. Now only some 52,000 tonnes are expected countrywide.
Namibia will most probably have to import more than 140,000 tonnes of maize to fill the gap in the market due to poor rainfall in the current planting season.
The coordinator and manager of maize and wheat of the Agronomic Board of Namibia, Antoinette Venter, says all the warning signs appeared in January and February, which are the most critical months of the year for rain-fed maize producers. Rains were just not enough to warrant last-minute planting.
Less than one-third of producers received normal rainfall over the past few years, and the trend continues. That could mean the end of the road for many producers as rain-fed crop production is high-risk business and producers do not qualify for insurance. Producers have encountered massive financial losses since the drought of 2013.
Most producers struggle with cash-flow problems and input costs on average amount to N$4,500 per hectare.
A less than positive picture has unfolded in the northern communal areas (NCAs) where mahangu and maize crops reduced drastically to all-time lows since 2013, resulting in the government forking out some N$55 million twice for drought food aid.
Namibia had to import close to 210,000 tonnes of cereals annually since 2013 and almost 700,000 Namibians were left in urgent need of drought relief food in 2016. Less than 800 tonnes of white maize is now expected from the Omusati Region and environs.