Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Tjekero Tweya says to ensure effective reduction of the current high import bill, Namibia will have to institute a mandatory retail charter such as a 'buy local' policy, which will make it easier for small businesses to sell goods and services to government.
Tweya said this in Parliament last week while responding to questions raised by United Democratic Front (UDF) Member of Parliament, Apius !Auchab, as to what the country is doing to reduce the high import bill.
According to the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) statistics, during the 2017/18 financial year Namibia imported an astronomical 96 percent of its fruits, 96 percent of wheat, 60 percent of pearl millet and 40 percent of white maize from foreign countries.
Namibia imports 96 percent of its total demand for fresh fruit while only four percent is produced locally. In terms of the agronomic crops, Namibia during the same period produced 4 percent of its wheat consumption while 96 percent was imported from foreign countries.
Also, during the said period the country also produced 2 344 tons (40 percent) of pearl millet while 5 813 tons were imported. Likewise, Namibia produced 76 660 tons (60 percent) of white maize whereas 50 483 tons were imported.
In terms of horticulture, 25 599 tons were locally produced, meaning 35 percent of the country's total consumption was locally produced in the said financial year.
Additionally, 80 percent of exports is table grapes while the remaining 20 percent is mainly dates.
"Concerted efforts by both the public and the private sector are not needed today but were needed as in yesterday already," Tweya said, adding that Namibia continues to be faced with a colossal import bill of even the basic food and commodities that it should produce.
He told MPs that the situation is no longer acceptable, adding that it is not only goods alone but even services that are imported.
"It is our conviction that much progress is to be achieved if we treat the private sector as a stakeholder rather than an adversary on this matter. The private sector has and is developing goods and services for both local and export amidst the colossal import and their economies of scale advantages," he said.
Tweya says there are many goods and services being produced locally such as poultry, wines, chocolates, plastic products, sanitary products, cosmetics, arts and craft products in the face of big imports.
But, he said, in order to better the situation, the country will have to look at both hard measures and instruments within the country's remit as well as other softer approaches such as stimulating innovation and ensuring market access.
"MITSMED [the ministry] is consumed daily with this matter as well as with our private sector stakeholders. We can also discount the work by stakeholders such as Team Namibia," he said.