21 February 2019

Namibia: Temporary Ban On Vegetable Imports

The abundance of local vegetables has resulted in the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) banning the importation of certain vegetables until the end of February 2019.

In a public announcement issued on 12 February, the crops regulator listed seven of the 10 most consumed vegetables in the country as being sufficient and banned the importation from 1-28 February 2019, or until further notice.

Lesley Losper, national horticulture manager at NAB, said the 10 most consumed products in the country are potatoes, onions, butternut, cabbage, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, English cucumber, sweet potato, and beetroot.

National statistics show that Namibia imported about N$749 million worth of of fruits and vegies in 2018.

The NAB closed off the borders for cabbage, carrots, unwashed/brushed potatoes, butternut, tomatoes, English cucumbers and beetroot packaged in five and 10 kilogrammes.

According to Losper, the ban is only imposed when the NAB has done a thorough assessment of production and supply to the local market.

He added that both retailers and suppliers are also informed of the assessment results to ensure coordination and that the market is supplied sufficiently.

"Border closure is applied only to these 10 vegetables, which is done every month. So every month, local producers will provide updates on their produce supply for the next month. Traders and producers are also in supply arrangements hence producing per market needs," he said.

Since the border closure is something common and dependent upon an assessment of demand and supply, Losper said he does not expect it to have much of an effect on the local economic figures adding that it is to the benefit of local suppliers that the ban is imposed.

"The intent of the market share promotions and the closure of borders is to ensure an increasing share of local produce on the Namibian fresh produce market thereby putting more money in the pockets of local farmers. It also ensures that less money leaves the country for the importation of fresh produce," he explained.

Namibia has about 90 dealers in fresh produce excluding those that supply distribution centres, which Losper said are always sufficient to cater to the local market during border closure.

In December last year, the border was closed off for tomatoes, English cucumbers, butternuts, catering carrots and beetroots.

Losper also provided an overview of the local market saying Namibia imports roughly 50% of the most 20 consumed vegetables. However, in terms of fruits, domestic production still needs to be increased before Namibia can look at closing off the border and promoting the local share.

He, however, said his office would hold talks with the stakeholders to establish a local empowerment strategy.

"The top mostly consumed fruits in Namibia are bananas, apples and oranges. We are to engage the industry to come up with a production and marketing strategy that explores the potential of producing each of the top five fruits consumed in Namibia," he said.

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