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Protect market for potatoes and onions

Two staple commodities, potatoes and onions, are seen as key products to drive the horticultural phalanx of the Growth at Home strategy.

Revealed recently at the introduction of the Agro-Marketing and Trading Agency’s (AMTA’s) strategic plan to boost local production, the so-called National Potato and Onion Scheme regulates the importation of these commodities into Namibia to protect local growers. It is envisaged that eventually almost N$200 million can be saved by substituting imported vegetables with local products. The Agronomic Board is confident that a market opportunity exists, both in terms of tonnage and value that is produced in Namibia. This is boosted by the Potato and Onion Agreement between the Potato and Onion Producers Association and the National Association of Traders in Fresh Produce which came into effect almost a year ago.
The total turnover for potatoes sourced locally increased by 26 % and then by another 42 % for the periods 2012/13 and 2013/14. Monetary value of local potatoes grew to N$25.8 million in 2013/14, up from N$19 million in the previous financial period. Currently, potato imports are valued at N$91.7 million indicating the enormous potential to increase local production. Under the Market Share Promotion agreement, local producers will be supported to sustain local demand. For instance, in 2012, Namibian potato producers only managed to grow N$2 million’s worth of fresh potatoes.
The National Potato and Onion Scheme aims to provide marketing assurance to the local potato and onion producers to ensure consistent and continued availability of the products for the local market at retail level. Reliability of supply is a key consideration for retailers to continue stocking Namibian products.
Senior Manager for Market Promotion and Research at AMTA, Fedelis Mwazi said that statistics for 2013/14 are likely to show a similar if not improved trend. The monthly average price per tonne for the period 1 April 2013 to end of March 2014 for locally produced potatoes was N$6,291 while imports recorded a lower N$5,773. March last year saw 252 tonnes grown locally with imports coming to 1,318 tonnes.
Similarly, local onion producers fetched N$5,628 per tonne while imported onion cost only N$4,318 per tonne on average. These price disparities are one of the long-term detriments to local production and it is hoped that it will be neutralised by increasing local volumes.
Mwazi said that the potato and onion scheme will again for the second time, close the border for imports from June to December this year. No importer will be allowed to bring ordinary fresh onions into the country during this time.
The special import permits for potatoes and onions are being issued every a 14 days depending on the availability of potatoes and onions from local producers.
The Agronomic Board said in its annual report that since the start of the implementation of the special import permit system under the potato and onion scheme, no major challenges have been encountered, as both traders and producers were very supportive.

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