Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) yesterday made history when it announced the results of its barley feasibility study done in Germany and which proved that locally produced barley could be used to brew local beer.
Windhoek Lager, one of Namibia's most popular exports to countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya is NBL's flagship brand. The study ascertained local barley meets the highest international standards and is suitable as an ingredient for local beer.
Speaking at a special gathering in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Lempy Lucas, Sven Thieme the Executive Chairman of the Ohlthaver & List Group that has majority shareholding in NBL, revealed that test results have proven that planting and harvesting barley locally has the potential to greatly enhance agriculture.
"The Barley Project that was started two years ago, has the potential of supplying some 4 000 jobs in the near future when the barley malt industry is fully established," Thieme informed the deputy agriculture minister. Thieme said an initial investment of N$615 million would be needed, and that revenue of as much as N$486 million per year could be generated. Lucas expressed satisfaction with the results of the feasibility study.
"This reduces import requirements and creates new jobs and revenue in Namibia's most important agricultural sector - the core sector on which most of Namibia's population depends, because it fulfills basic food needs," she noted. The barley was grown on a pilot basis at Shadikongoro Green Scheme in the Kavango Region and at the !Aimab Superfarm at Mariental belonging to Namibia Dairies, and was harvested as part of the second year of scientific trials aimed at determining the feasibility of producing brewing barley in Namibia.
Thereafter the barley was sent for malting to the German malting company, Durst Malz, an expert partner on the project, confirming that the quality of the locally grown barley was well suited for NBL's Rheinheitsgebot beers. He said an investment in the local food supply chain could only lead to more independence from foreign markets. "Should NBL, with the support of its partners be able to stimulate a successful barley malt industry in Namibia, this will provide numerous employment opportunities and secondary benefits to our country. We will therefore continue to explore the next steps in the Barley Project," said Thieme.
He stressed that the project has the potential to enhance food security, because barley is grown in one season only, and creates the opportunity for maize to be planted as the alternative crop in the non-barley growing season. Namibia does not produce malted barley at this stage. The NBL currently imports nearly 40 000 tonnes of malted barley from overseas every year. He said the potential is endless if this previously unexplored opportunity is used properly to produce barley locally at the right quality and price.
"There would be various spin-offs to benefit Namibia - from establishing barley as a new agricultural sector, and creating many jobs - to establishing Namibia's own malting industry. To deliver NBL's malted barley requirements, 12 000 ha of irrigation crops would have to be developed, and malting and storage facilities would be required," said Thieme.