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By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus

Namibian crop farmers spend a fortune on seed imports mostly from South Africa as the country lacks internal seed research and production.

The Villager assessment of one farmer operating in the government green scheme in the Kavango region- for maize alone the farm spent N$153 000 for the 2020/21 season, in a 20ha field.

According to Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), latest newsletter (2021) the country is a net importer of both agronomic and horticulture seeds.

Since seeds are the most important factor in crop farming the board is currently embarking on a journey (2019-2024) to fill the gap of quality seed supply through research.

NAB has acknowledged the issue of quality seeds in the country and has collaborated with the University of Namibia (UNAM) in seed variety research.

Their assessment revealed that there is limited availability of high-quality certified seeds varieties that are high-yielding, and adaptable to the country’s climatic and soil conditions.

“In this regard, it is logical to accelerate the development of high yielding and adapted seed variety,” wrote the board.

The board revealed in their newsletter that hybrid seed to be produced next year will be increased yearly, packaged, and will be available to the local producers at reasonable prices.

“To reduce reliance on seed imports,” the board wrote.

The seed research is currently done under the Crop Improvement Programme- which aims to breed, and select high-yielding and adapted seed varieties of agronomic and horticulture crops.

With priority given to mahangu, wheat, potatoes, and white maize.

Last year, the board received 24 elite mahangu seeds from the International Crop Research Institutes for the Semi-Arid Tropic.

They were planted last year from December to early January 2021 in Zambezi, Omusati, and Otjozondjupa- as part of a trial to test the seed on adaptability to the local climatic conditions.

The harvesting and final screening were done in May 2021 and the next trial for the mahangu seeds will continue for the next season which will start in October this year.

While for white maize, 28 early and 28 intermediate maturing white maize hybrid seed varieties were received from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.

They were planted between December 2020 and 2021 at four research farming facilities under irrigation- harvesting was done in May 2021.

The maize trial included one local and three commercial varieties – the final screening was done in May this year.

Namibia goes as far as Russia,  Poland, Germany, and Argentina to import wheat, and the wheat issue is not only with Namibia but also at the regional level with only South Africa producing substantial.

Early this year, NAB indicated that Namibia is only able to produce 10,3% of its wheat needs.

Wheat is the second most-consumed staple food after maize in Namibia, yet accounts for the lowest in terms of production, indicated NAB.

In February this year, the NAB report indicated that the country faces a wheat shortage of 114 363 tonnes that will be imported to meet local demand.

As a result, from 2020 to February this year, using the N$3 782,5 price per tonne, the country would have roughly spent N$447,7 million on wheat imports.

NAB in their latest newsletter indicated that in March 2021 they have received 200 bread white varieties from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, to be tested in the country during the winter season.

Planting for the trials had begun in May 2021, on five sites located in Hardap, Otjikoto, Kavango East, and Zambezi Region.

Harvesting and final screening of the seed varieties are expected in October and November 2021.

Namibia has been also struggling to sufficiently supply the local market with potatoes, NAB can close the border as a sign of better harvest for many special controlled horticulture crops but not for potatoes.

The latest trade statistics (June 2021) shows that the N$21,3 million spent by the country on horticulture it was mostly spent on potatoes accounting for 41,1% of the total import of the entire horticulture category,

Followed by garlic (8,9%), and frozen vegetables (18,1%).

Namibia Statistics Agency also revealed that most of the horticulture products were mainly sourced from South Africa accounting for 99,9% of the total imports with a

minimal amount imported from Zambia and Germany.

Various potential producers and experts have indicated that the lack of potato seeds and tubers has been detrimental to the local production of potatoes.

NAB revealed that together with UNAM, in December last year they partnered up with a French company, Comptoir Du Plant on potato seed variety trials in Namibia.

The trials have been done in four places, Hochfeld, Tsintsabis, Dorringboom and Guinas.

The potato trial focused on six French seed varieties, their yield, and their adaptability to the Namibian climatic conditions and soil conditions.

The trial has also included two commercial check varieties commonly grown in Namibian.

The six French seed varieties were also donated to various farmers to conduct trials at their own cost.

Harvesting and final screening were completed in April and June this year, however, for Tsintsabis trials did not materialize due to heavy rain experienced in the area.

NAB indicated that their preliminary result of the trials at Guinas and Hochfeld for the French seeds has performed well in terms of yield, quality, and adaptability in comparison to the two local commercial variety seeds.

The objective of the seed research trial was to evaluate seed varieties’ yield and adaptability around the country’s four production zones and choose the best.

Top-performing varieties than local commercial checks will be recommended to local producers after second and third trials and official recognition.

Julia Heita

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