Top producers honoured at 2015 National Horticulture Day

Windhoek: Namibian producers and traders in fresh fruit and vegetables were recognised at the 2015 National Horticulture Day at farm Sonop at Noordoewer on the banks of the Orange River last week.

In addition to trophies and certificates, each winner received N$18 000 to use to cover travel and accommodation costs when they visit any regional horticultural event. Traders are also awarded in the Small Scale, Medium, Large, Very Large and Mega categories for supporting local producers and for achieving or even exceeding the minimum percentage of fresh fruit and vegetables that must be purchased locally, according to the Market Share Promotion.

Present at the National Horticulture Day Awards Ceremony were the Chairperson of the Namibian Agronomic Board(NAB), Sirkka Iileka, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NAB, Christof Brock, a representative of the Agricultural Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), Fidelis Mwazi, a representative of Agribusdev, Paulus Mungoba and representatives of the /Kharas Region, Hansina Christian, Special Advisor and Lucia Basson, Governor of the //Kharas region and Councillor Paulus Efraim. Iileka delivered the keynote address on behalf of John Mutorwa, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.

Nominees for the title of Producer of the Year across the three categories are evaluated by a selection committee comprising representatives of the National Horticulture Task Team (NHTT), AMTA, the Namibia Horticulture Producers (NAHOP) and Agribusdev. The selection committee travelled to horticulture producing areas across the country assessing and appraising the nominated farms.

The Producer of the Year, Albert van der Merwe, says his farm Sonop produces tomatoes, butternuts, green peppers for the Namibian and South African markets and table grapes for export. Altogether, they cultivate 50 hectares of tomatoes, of which ten hectares are cultivated under shade netting to extend the season of tomato availability. “In the summer it is so hot here in Noordoewer, that it is not possible to produce tomatoes on open lands during November/December so the shade net structure with misters assists in extending the season.” The shade net production system has a potential of producing 180 tonnes per hectare.

Alongside the netted crop stands a conventional tomato crop with a plant population of 12 000 plants per hectare. Van der Merwe demonstrated the innovative techniques that are introduced to their farming practice in an effort to increase yield per hectare. By increasing the height of the support poles, an additional support wire is spun between the conventional wires and every single shoot run at a 45° angle to the additional support wire, effectively adding one metre to the plant and maximising its potential yield. This means that Sonop doubles its capacity to the equivalent of 24 000 plants per hectare and therefore, the potential yield per plant increases. The 45° angle is a practical manoeuvre so that farm workers are still able to access and harvest from a plant that is double in size – but not double the height – of the conventional planting block.

In keeping with the theme, “Soil – building a productive, food secure Namibia from the ground up”, van der Merwe says, “the quality of the soil at Sonop is my focus at the moment. Soil is my biggest asset and soil must be productive for generations to come.” In addition to crop rotation, van der Merwe also plants cover crops that are incorporated into the soil as green manure. He’ll also be focussing on producing his own compost to keep his soil in top producing condition.