Although Namibia is known as one of the driest countries in the southern African region, it produces substantial portions of staple foods, such as maize and mahangu, under rain-fed conditions.
This year’s insufficient rain poses a serious threat to food security, as the dry land harvest has been severely affected as a result.
However, Namib Mills managing director, Ian Collard, assures the already panicked general public of sufficient maize meal in the country thus effectively laying their anxieties to rest. He says Namib Mills, the largest grain processing company in Namibia, has already procured enough maize from other origins to ensure ample supply until the next harvest.
Most of the maize will be imported from South Africa, as it is Namibia’s most reliable source at the right quality and price. Zambian maize will also be imported if price, continuous availability and quality make sense, he notes.
“The current year’s local crop is being harvested at this stage and no problems have been experienced so far. Local harvest will supply approximately 30% of normal annual consumption. Expected consumption is higher due to the drought’s effect on the mahangu harvest, as consumers will now have to replace mahangu with maize meal as a staple food,” Collard says.
The quantity needed to be imported is approximately 120 000 tons, which if added to the local harvest, (which is expected to be 30 000 tons) it would amount to 150 000 tons to sustain the country’s usage.
Although he can assure the availability of sufficient maize meal supply, he cannot ensure that its pricing will remain the same due to the various economical uncertainties and the ongoing weakening of the Namibian dollar against the US dollar.
The lesser supply of maize in the region is expected to influence the increase of its price, along with the weakened exchange rate, not forgetting the electricity and other costs that were recently increased, which also impact on the production costs. Therefore, prices will have to be adjusted to maintain margins that would facilitate inflationary increases on input costs.
Namib Mills manufactures, sells and distributes not only maize meal but also pasta products, mahangu, wheat flour, rice and sugar.
According to Collard, wheat prices are expected to remain stable for the remainder of the year in US dollar terms. That is because the more countries enter the international wheat market, the more stable prices tend to be.
The only unknown factor regarding wheat prices will then be the exchange rate with the US dollar, Collard argues. Although his company is very excited about the growth of the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which are seen as the major developing economies, the USA remains the biggest economy in the world. Therefore, whatever happens there normally has a spill-over effect on the rest of the world compared to when it happens to other major players.
In order for Namibia to sustain her food security in future through agriculture, it will have to rely on food produced under irrigation. Thus, creating the need to expand the irrigation system to produce more, even in dry conditions.
This process, Collard explains, will probably take a long time to get done as its success leans against factors, such as a certain level of expertise, enough funds and the collaboration of all the stakeholders. However, he insists it is not a matter to rush into since the country is actually moving in the right direction as far as the Vision 2030 goals are concerned. PF