Namibia undertakes to reduce cereal imports

WINDHOEK Government remains committed to improving food security by reducing cereal imports by 20 per cent over the next five years.

A week ago, Presidential Advisor on Economic matters, Dr John Steytler proposed at looking at replacing imported goods with locally produced alternatives that can find itself on local shelves for Namibian consumers.

He said government has identified agriculture as one such sector with ample potential.

Currently, about 60 per cent of Namibia's cereal needed are imported at great cost.

He said this is why President Hage Geingob announced the introduction of agricultural modernisation and seed improvement programme aimed to reduce the amount of cereal Namibia import.

Agriculture has moved to the front of the priority lists for sectors that should stimulate the economy and create jobs in the next seven years.

President Geingob made a rather surprise announcement in April that the government has secured funding to implement the extensive Agricultural Mechanisation and Seed Improvement Programme.

He did not specify the amount of funding obtained nor details of the exact nature of the programme but said it would be rolled out over a five-year period, from the second quarter of 2018.

In terms of the agricultural modernisation programme, we hope that we can reduce that dependency to 20 per cent over a five-year period. And who knows, maybe in the long run, we can even become a surplus producer and export, Steytler noted.

Geingob, in his State of the Nation Address, said the successful implementation of the programme is envisaged to halve the percentage of food-insecure people in Namibia, from an estimated 25 per cent in 2017 to 12 per cent by 2025.

The programme is also expected to lead to a reduction in annual grain and cereal imports from 60 per cent of total consumption in 2017 to 20 per cent by 2025.

Steytler said it will be important for Namibia in the long run to close what is termed as the import/export gap.

Currently, he noted Namibia import much more than what it exports which puts pressure on government's reserves.

As a measure, he said this is one of the reasons why government had to issue a Euro bond some two years ago to strengthen its reserve position.

As a country, we continue to peg our currency to the South African Rand. In order to sustain that peg, we need to have sufficient reserves. So, I think its very important for us to look at what we can produce for local consumption but also what we can produce to export. We are idly pleased to access the African market. There are many countries which are interested in bribing their factories here and supply the rest of Africa through the Port of Walvis Bay, the economic advisor said.

He echoed Geingob's call for Namibians to be effective in implementing some of these plans.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia