NAMIBIA – The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) has encouraged local farmers to boost potato cultivation in a bid to mitigate Namibia’s staggering NAD 138 million (USD 7.4 million) annual import bill for potatoes.

This initiative aims not only to enhance self-sufficiency but also to alleviate the strain on the national economy caused by significant potato imports.

NAB spokesperson Fabian Auguste emphasized the need for heightened local production to meet the consistent demand for potatoes.

Auguste clarified the rationale behind keeping the border open for potato imports throughout the year. Speaking on behalf of NAB, he highlighted that, for the second consecutive month, only potatoes and lettuce have been exempted from import restrictions, underlining their critical role in Namibia’s horticultural landscape.

“Most other crops are produced in sufficient quantities locally. We advocate an increase in local potato production due to its constant demand,” remarked Auguste.

The present scenario indicates that Namibia produces only 35% of its potato requirements, compelling the nation to import the remaining 65%.

Potatoes, being a versatile vegetable widely used in dishes such as chips, salads, and mashed potatoes, have become a staple in Namibian households.

NAB CEO Fidelis Mwazi, in a notice to horticultural traders, underscored the importance of these restrictions aligned with the Agronomic Industry Act and the Namibian Horticulture Market Share Promotion (MSP) Scheme rules.

The measures aim to shield Namibia’s emerging horticultural sector from the adverse effects of cheap imports while nurturing domestic industry growth.

Mwazi elucidated that, in cases where shortfalls are anticipated, controlled imports for specific products would be implemented.

For instance, a 30% importation allowance for round tomatoes and varying percentages for watermelon and sweet potatoes are envisaged.

During February, the border will be closed for the importation of several crops, including beetroot, butternut, cabbage, carrot, cucumber, pepper varieties, gem squash, and onion.

Exclusions apply to some products, and Mwazi emphasized adherence to the regulations to safeguard Namibia’s agricultural interests.

To bolster local potato cultivation, the National Association of Horticultural Producers (Nahop) has initiated a program to train small-scale farmers.

Lesley Losper, Nahop spokesperson, expressed satisfaction with the overwhelming response, signaling potential extensions to accommodate the unexpected demand.

“We did not anticipate getting such large numbers, and we might have to extend the program beyond the initial 15 centers. The idea is to teach farmers that they can also grow potatoes, even at the household level, to reduce pressure on the national supply chain,” said Losper.

This concerted effort by NAB and Nahop aims to fortify Namibia’s agricultural resilience, fostering sustainable practices and reducing dependence on costly potato imports.

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