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Namibian Farmers Urged to Dig Deep: Potato Import Substitution Beckons

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The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) is sounding the alarm, urging local farmers to ramp up potato production and mitigate the staggering N$138 million annual import bill. This clarion call highlights the immense opportunity for Namibian agriculture to embrace import substitution and capitalize on the potato’s versatility and demand.

NAB spokesperson Fabian Auguste emphasizes the need to bridge the gap between domestic production and consistent potato consumption. He clarifies the rationale behind keeping the border open for select imports, underlining the critical role of potatoes and lettuce in Namibia’s horticultural landscape.

“Most other crops are adequately produced locally,” Auguste remarks. “However, potatoes remain a significant import dependency, and we advocate for increased local production to meet this demand.”

Namibia currently produces only 35% of its potato needs, leaving a lucrative 65% gap for local farmers to fill. Potatoes, a staple in Namibian households, are used in various dishes, from chips and salads to the beloved mash.

NAB Chief Executive Dr. Fidelis Mwazi reinforces the importance of import restrictions aligned with the Agronomic Industry Act and the Namibian Horticulture Market Share Promotion Scheme. These measures, as evidenced by the hefty potato import bill, aim to create a competitive environment for local producers while guaranteeing preferential access to the domestic market.

“Controlled imports will be implemented for specific products where shortfalls are anticipated,” Dr. Mwazi clarifies. “For instance, a 30% allowance is envisaged for round tomatoes, while varying percentages are planned for watermelon and sweet potatoes.”

February sees a temporary border closure for key vegetables like beetroot, butternut, cabbage, and onions. Exclusions apply based on import regulations.

Bolstering local potato cultivation, the National Association of Horticultural Producers (NAHP) has launched a training program for small-scale farmers. The program’s overwhelming response signals potential expansion beyond the initial 15 centers.

“We were surprised by the immense interest,” says NAHP spokesperson Lesley Losper. “This initiative aims to empower farmers to grow potatoes, even at the household level, and reduce pressure on the national supply chain.”