New Era (Windhoek)

23 April 2014

Namibia: Good Harvest Expected in Maize Triangle

Windhoek — Namibian producers in the Maize Triangle and other production areas are set to exceed all expectations with this year's total white maize harvest at the end of July. The expectations shot up to an expected 68 213 tonnes when members of the Agronomic Board finalised their crop estimation report yesterday after visiting the Maize Triangle in recent days to gather first-hand information from producers.

The good news comes in the wake of last year's depleted harvest when the Maize Triangle, known as the bread basket of Namibia, produced a mere 35 000 tonnes of white maize during the debilitating drought of 2013. The Maize Triangle is made up of the Grootfontein, Otavi and Tsumeb agricultural areas. This significant and unexpected recovery after good rains in the planting season up to the end of March will fall just short of the record-breaking harvest of 74 000 tonnes in 2012. Antoinette Venter, administrative manager of grain of the Namibian Agronomic Board, confirmed the white maize final estimate yesterday to New Era, saying it is "a huge relief to hear that the total harvest will be pushed up to more than 68 000 tonnes after the initial fears of yet another depleted total yield because of the severe drought of 2013".

The Maize Triangle is expected to deliver 30 176 tonnes of white maize in total from 8 079 hectares planted in dry land crop areas and 778 hectares under irrigation. The Kavango will harvest a much needed 17 626 tonnes from 2 203 hectares planted under irrigation. The Hardap Region is expected to contribute 9 000 tonnes from 900 hectares planted to the total of 68 213 tonnes of white maize. In the central and eastern parts, 4 212 tonnes of white maize is expected to be harvest from 1 295 hectares planted in dry land areas and 1 138 hectares under irrigation. The Omusati Region will contribute 2 260 tonnes of white maize from 410 hectares planted. The Zambezi's contribution is expected to be 5 000 tonnes of white maize. Good rains in January, February and March have resulted in this increase in total production which is very good news for the Namibian population whose staple diet is maize and maize products. After facing a situation of 'plant now, or don't plant at all' in late January, consistent downpours have changed the almost desperate situation then into one of earnest hope after some 80 percent of the total available hectares of 10 275 hectares were successfully cultivated in the various white maize production areas.

News of the prospects of a much better maize harvest this year in the Maize Triangle and the Hardap Region after last year's disastrous yields because of the drought was greeted with great joy by producers and role players like the Agronomic Producers Board.

With that, fears were put aside of another dismal harvest. Reports from producers in the Maize Triangle indicate that some 20 percent of the available land has been planted with alternative cultivars due to the late rains at the start of the planting season. Many producers feared the worst and referred to alternative cultivars such as silage, cowpeas and other varieties.

However, with the good rains problems have arisen in some areas. Dry land crop producers in the Omaheke and Hardap regions experienced considerable problems with above average amounts of weed, while producer Dawie de Klerk of the Hardap Region confirmed the presence of stalk borer which is giving producers in the region headaches. In some parts of the northern production areas producers were also faced with an outbreak of the African bollworm. This was successfully combatted with help from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry who supplied field workers to destroy the worms with pesticides. Last year, many dry land crop producers were informed by their insurance brokers that premiums of insurance policies had shot up because of the high risks involved in dry land farming. Because of the high risks in the absence of rains and no predictable forecast for the long-term outlook, dry land farmers will simply not be able to pay increased premiums under risky circumstances. It resulted in farmers planting less, but after the good rains and expected bumper harvest the financial landscape regarding insurance for white maze production will almost certainly also change. Maize meal remained untouched by price increases until October last year, as compared to wheat flour, mahangu and pasta prices which went up early in 2013.

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