The Namibian Agro-marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) says the country still relies heavily on imported fresh produce because it has no long-term cold storage facilities.
According to AMTA’s annual report for 2016/’17, all perishable products like vegetables, tomatoes, onions, butternuts, potatoes and cabbages must be consumed shortly after harvest due to the lack of cold storage facilities.
The agency said local producers incur huge daily stock losses because they are forced to throw away perishable leftovers in times of poor demand or saturation of the fresh produce market.
“If there is no demand in the market, the crops must be stored until demand grows. The construction of a fresh produce cold storage facility will therefore help reduce reliance on the importation of crops that we can produce and store for consumption at a later stage,” said NAMTA Head Lukas Lungameni.
Ideally, the country needs a cold storage facility that can hold produce for up to 6 months. Plans are also underway to increase the National Strategic Food Reserve (NSFR) from 22 900 metric tons to 67 000 in the next few years.
According to the annual report, 4 885.54 metric tons of crops with an estimated value of N$34 million were sold through NAMTA’s 3 fresh produce markets in the 2016/’17 season.
The main products included potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, butternuts, watermelons, gem squash, carrots, green peppers and sweet potatoes.
Among other limitations, the agency said it cannot compete with well-established fresh produce agents operating locally and internationally. It also bemoaned the high cost of relying on South African laboratories to inspect all Namibian fresh produce imports.