News Column

Maize Production Doubles After Drought

June 26, 2014



Last year's debilitating drought may have left its scars on the Namibian agricultural landscape, but millers have bounced back strongly to post impressive production results.

This is according to the Managing Director of Namib Mills, Ian Collard, on the eve of the milling season that will start at the end of June.

Namibian white maize producers exceeded all expectations with this year's vastly improved total expected harvest in the so-called Maize Triangle and other productions areas, which ends in July. Expectations shot up to 68 213 tonnes after a final assessment by members of the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB), while gathering first-hand information from producers in late May, enabling them to make a very accurate estimation.

Collard said some 55 000 tonnes of white maize will soon be heading for the market while the rest will be stored in government silos as provision in times of emergency.

The good news comes in the wake of last year's depleted harvest when the Maize Triangle, known as the bread basket of Namibia, produced a mere 35 000 tonnes of white maize during the drought. The harvest season was also advanced to the end of June this year due to the very dry January producers had to face. The Maize Triangle is expected to deliver 30 176 tonnes of white maize in total from 8 079 hectares planted in dry land crop areas. The Kavango will harvest a much needed 17 626 tonnes from 2 203 hectares planted and under irrigation. The Hardap Region is expected to contribute 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 are expected to be harvested from 1 295 hectares planted in dry land areas and 1 138 hectares under irrigation. The Omusati Region will contribute 2 260 tonnes of white maize from 410 hectares planted. The Zambezi's contribution is expected to be 5 000 tonnes of white maize. Provisional crop estimates indicated that some communal crop producing regions are expecting below average harvest, following poor rainfall coupled with damage by bollworms. Poor rainfall was experienced more in the northern central regions, resulting in poor crop germination and wilting of crops and subsequently average expected crop harvests.

National cereal production is provisionally forecast at 122 390 tonnes, reflecting an increase of 50 percent higher than last season's harvest but yet 2 percent below average. Much of this improvement comes from the commercial areas where most of the production is under irrigation. Namibia was cited recently as the SADC country that has recorded the biggest increase in food insecurity with an eleven-fold increase. Collard says Namibia uses 150 000 tonnes of the global maize consumption of 840 million tonnes, and despite the improved harvest, Namibia will as from August this year still rely on South African imports of about 130 000 tonnes to supply its population of some 2,2 million people. South Africa has recorded a record-breaking maize harvest of 14 million tonnes; the highest yield since the mid-eighties. Last year, Namibia had to import 170 000 tonnes of maize.

Collard does not expect price increases under such favourable conditions with enough maize available, but warns that affordability might become an issue due to various factors such as neighbouring countries not having excess maize available to keep local customers supplied, a weakened exchange rate that will increase prices, as will increased petrol prices that will have an upward effect on the cost of transport of products.

"Apart from that, we are exposed, as everybody else to the increased municipal charges, electricity and other services and increased annual remuneration to employees," he said. By Deon Schlechter


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Source: AllAfrica


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