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Demand for washed potatoes in Namibia not met by local supply

Demand for washed potatoes in Namibia not met by local supply

In Namibia,  retailers and importing agents have spent NAD (Namibian Dollar) 120.1 million (USD 8.4 million) between 2019 and 2020 on importing washed potatoes to meet local demand.

At the same time local producers are struggling to meet local demand, which include the formal and informal markets. This is according to statistics released by Emilie Abraham, horticulture manager of the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB).

Forecasted local production stands at 14 904 tonnes, which is just 40% of domestic demand. Domestic demand stands at 37 129,40 tonnes, with the inclusion of 12 982,60 tonnes demanded by the informal market.

The estimated overall demand stands at 50 112 tonnes. This shows the local market is experiencing a huge supply gap to both the informal and formal markets.  Abraham says only seven Namibian potato producers currently wash potatoes.

The country's high import bill is not only due to the inability to wash potatoes, but also because of low volumes produced by local farmers, she says.  Abraham says if more could be produced, the seven producers which currently wash potatoes could assist with this at a cost, and, as a result, grow the local value chain.

Emilie Abraham:
"There is also a high demand for brushed or unwashed potatoes, particularly in the informal and Angolan markets."
The NAB encourages producers to wash potatoes through market-share promotion.

Emilie Abraham:
"If there are enough washed potatoes locally, the NAB closes the borders to allow washed potatoes to sell in the local market."
More mushrooms needed

Local mushroom production stands at 245 tonnes, and imports at 171 tonnes, the NAB's statistics show.

This means mushroom imports are worth around NAD 4,4 million, while local producers collect about NAD 10,9 million.

Emilie Abraham:
"Although the mushroom product is a small line, there is scope for new entrants to penetrate the market."
In a nutshell, the country produces around 50% of the mushrooms it consumes, and imports more than 40%.

Harambee and agriculture

The economic advancement pillar of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPPII) aims to lead economic transformation and recovery by unlocking the agricultural sector's potential. HPPII indicates it would facilitate private strategic investments in the agricultural sector. This would be done through a thorough review of the possibility of applying public-private partnerships (PPPs) to the country's green schemes.

The overall goal would be to improve output from green schemes and attract private-sector expertise and capital. The schemes are to be included in PPPs' priority lists to be finalised in the fourth quarter of the 2021/22 financial year. However, HPPII does not indicate specific strategies for how it would assist in increasing the output of small and medium-scale commercial producers struggling to improve food security.

The plan simply states that initiatives would be launched, which would include engaging in sector-specific strategies, such as those geared towards improving yields in agriculture, or cross-cutting initiatives, such as those that enable the scaling up of small businesses with high potential.

Moreover, there is no mention of agricultural sectors or regions apart from the Khomas and Erongo regions with regards to water-intensive industries as a critical engine of growth. Only the mining sector is targeted, despite the call to diversify.

The HPPII document reads:
"A binding constraint is the lack of a viable solution to increase the quantity of affordable water to the industrial and mining sector based in the outskirts."
This is despite the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Land Reform's dream of developing 500 hectares of land for irrigation this year, and 4 800 hectares by 2023. The agricultural component received NAD 699,6 million out of NAD 241,4 million for development, with the rest covering salaries and subsidies.