Concerns over food security mounts amid drop in grains

WINDHOEK: Namibia’s total coarse grain production which include white maize, sorghum, pearl millet and wheat has decreased and raised serious alarm on food security in the country.

The national’s aggregate coarse grain production is estimated at 67 800 metric tonnes which in output is 46 per cent below average and 49 per cent lower than the previous season’s production, according to the latest crop prospects, food security and drought situation report for June 2015 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) last week.

Coarse grain production consisted of 38 100 tonnes of white maize; a total of 15 300 tonnes of pearl millet; a total of 1 700 tonnes of sorghum; and a total of 12 700 tonnes of wheat.

“This substantial decrease in production is attributed to the serious drought conditions experienced in the country this year. All the major dry land crop producing regions noted a massive reduction in harvests which according to the analysis are below the average production and lower than the previous season’s harvest. The poor crop harvest is due to poor rainfall performance experienced in the country this season and both communal and commercial dry land crop production sectors are affected,” it warned.

The area planted to cereal crops this season is estimated at 346 500 hectares. However, this represents a decrease of about 11 per cent below the average planted area and a slight increase of about nine per cent higher than last season.

A substantial reduction in planted area were more severe in the communal crop producing regions, of Zambezi, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto.

The balance sheet indicated that the available cereal locally for the current marketing/consumption period is estimated at 92 500 tonnes. This comprises of 20 300 tonnes of wheat; a total of 54 700 tonnes of white maize; and a total of 17 500 tonnes of pearl millet and sorghum.

In contrast, the current cereal domestic availability is only about 28 per cent of the domestic cereal requirements; hence a shortfall of 234 000 tonnes is required to cover the shortfall.

The cereal food balance sheet further noted that, after the considerations of imports received during May and June this year, an after trade deficit of 209 100 tonnes is estimated. This deficit consisted of 47 000 tonnes of wheat; a total of 107 100 tonnes of maize; and 55 000 tonnes of millet/sorghum.

“This deficit under the normal circumstances is expected to be covered through commercial imports in the form of either grains or meals. Meanwhile, South Africa where Namibia gets most of its maize imports, reported a 31 per cent decrease in commercial white maize harvest this season,” it warned.