Namibian consumers can expect to buy locally produced rice varieties in local supermarkets by April 2013.
Negotiations are currently taking place between the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Agro Marketing Trade Agency, and supermarkets to ensure that the rice is well branded and sold across the country.
If everything goes according to plan, locals will be able to purchase rice from the Kalimbeza rice project at cheaper prices. The production of locally grown rice is in line with developing a self sufficient basket of food which will hopefully emulate the success stories of Egypt and Israel.
Despite some concerns on the quality of the locally produced rice, recent preliminary reviews have yielded positive results.
The production process of the rice is purely organic with no fertilizers or chemical pesticides used. The project employs 40 to 60 workers during the four month cultivating season. There are other benefits in the form of training and development for the local farmers. These successes allow several other crops to be grown concurrently such as cabbage and other vegetables.
In a recent interview with The Economist, the Deputy Director of Plant Research Production at the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry Dr. Ben Malima explains the conundrum concerning rice sales.
He explained that the rice that has been sold so far is a product of two subdivisions for research on rice production. This is key in clarifying that the rice being sold for N$5 per kg is mainly for marketing purposes but does not actually reflect prices that will be set next year in April when commercial sales commence.
Under extensive evaluation is the 96 hectare plot area for commercial rice production which this year has shown a promising outlook. The concept of evaluation is basically to find which of the rice strains can be used for commercial production and at this stage, the most favourable ones are the Supa Irga and Angola strains.
Main challenges affecting the output from the hectares are fungal infections especially on certain rice strains. There are certain Quelea birds that have proved to be quite the opponents of progress as they pluck the rice once the area has been flooded. This has forced local farmers to board canoes to scare them off. Ducks have also proved to be worthy adversaries to the local farmers and researchers. Another challenge has been a result of the restless nature of the locals who have occasionally destroyed a fence or two in order to provide grazing for their livestock.