Namibia is expected to produce 45 050 tonnes of white maize – the staple diet of most Namibians – at the end of the harvesting season after yet another drought that impacted severely on early planting, according to the latest forecast by the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB).

The latest preliminary report, issued by NAB recently, says the dry land production areas of the Maize Triangle and environs will contribute only 7 219 tonnes of white maize due to a severe dry spell in the planting season. The central-east areas near Summer-down will contribute 2 647 tonnes and the Zambezi Region 950 tonnes.

The ten local millers have so far received 31 706 tonnes of white maize with 16 756 tonnes taken in by Namib Mills and 5 820 by Goal Maize, and the remaining eight smaller millers making up the total intake of 31 706 tonnes.

Irrigation areas will make a total contribution of 34 234 tonnes with Kavango Region leading the way with 17 007 tonnes. Hardap and environs will deliver 6 270 tonnes to bring the total to 45 050 tonnes.

The latest estimate shows a slight increase in the previous one done in August when only some 34 000 tonnes were expected. The price of white maize has been consistently above N$4 000 per tonne this season.

Local Namibian intentions to plant were lower than previous years as the local producers were exposed to adverse droughts for the past four years. This had a tremendous effect on the producers’ financial ability to be exposed to such risks again, says Namib Mills and Namib Poultry CEO Ian Collard.

This must also be seen in light of the very slow process and inadequate drought relief received from governmental bodies. Local dry-land producers are unable to insure against drought, as insurance companies perceive the risk to be too high.

This, however, is detrimental for dry-land planting under the current drought-relief regime. The scheme does not facilitate the needs of commercial farmers. In the longer term this will lead to lower dryland planting and therefore lower national harvests.

The good news, however, is that price decreases on maize meal can be seen in future up to the next harvest, as prices are coming down on the expectation of better rain. This situation will however be exposed to volatility dependent on

weather expectations throughout the planting season until the end of March 2017. Prices will then tend to stabilise as the harvest of 2017 nears.

Given that the exceptional decline in white maze production in Namibia’s dryland maize areas in 2016 was largely a result of the drought as opposed to economic considerations, maize producers and the Namibian Agronomic

Board (NAB) are cautiously optimistic about a rather strong recovery in 2017 and up to 2020, according to Antoinete Venter, administrator of the NAB.

The weak overall harvest will translate into Namibia having to import some 140 000 tonnes of maize to fill the gap in the market due to poor rainfall in the current planting season. Since 2013, Namibia had to on average import

some 200 000 tonnes of cereals to feed hungry mouths and this year the figure of people directly dependent on government drought food aid has jumped to 700 000 people.

Namibia’s 2015 maize crop was 44 percent lower when compared to 2014’s (above average) output, according to figures released by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). It noted around half of all dry land commercial farmers experienced total crop losses as a result of the drought and high temperatures.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), South Africa suffered the worst drought in more than half a century, saying the outlook is “alarming”.

“The SADC region is illprepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also

affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks, high food prices, and substantially increased numbers of food insecure people,” the UN agency added