JOHANNESBURG, 9 July 2009 (IRIN)
- Namibia's cereal harvest improved slightly in the 2008/09 season but is still woefully short of the national requirement, making many of its 1.8 million people highly vulnerable to any food price increases.
The agriculture ministry's Crop and Food Security Situation Report, published on 9 July, estimated a below average cereal crop of 111,100 tons - a shortfall of about 159,000 tons - attributed to flooding and heavy rains earlier in 2009.
The report noted that the eight percent rise in food production masked two poor previous harvests, and that "such improvement is only short-lived, as many households are likely to face food insecurity by the end of September ... since their food reserves were weakened by 2006/07 droughts, and now floods for the past two seasons."
The estimated total cereal harvest of 111,100 tons consists of 56,900 tons of white maize, 37,300 tons of pearl millet, 4,700 tons of sorghum and 12,200 tons of wheat.
Matheus Ndjodhi, an agriculture ministry economist, told IRIN that household food reserves had been depleted by the previous poor harvests as "people are dependent on their own production", and they would be "very susceptible to any food price increases".
"The impacts of poor crop production for the past three consecutive seasons, combined with soaring staple food prices, are likely to hit most of the vulnerable households," the crop report said. "In the following hunger season [they] are likely to intensify their coping strategies to meet their food needs up to the next harvest period."
The three consecutive poor harvests have been attributed to climatic conditions, but the report also highlighted the unaffordability of fertilizers, despite being 50 percent subsidized by government, and recommended that the 50kg units, costing N$345 (US$43), be made available in smaller more affordable units of 1kg and 5kg.