As Namibia braces itself for the impending threat of extreme weather conditions, experts are warning of an inevitable surge in food prices that could have far-reaching consequences on the country’s agricultural production. The combination of threatening weather patterns and high reliance on food imports paints a challenging picture for the nation’s food security. Meteorologists around the world are predicting that the upcoming El Niño cycle will likely be the costliest in recent history, bringing with it low growth and high inflation.
According to the latest Agricultural monthly report by Simonis Storm, the World Meteorological Organization forecasts a 98% probability that the next five years will be the warmest on record due to a combination of greenhouse gases and the return of El Niño. While this can have numerous economic impacts, the most intense repercussions will be felt in the realm of food prices, production, and overall food security.
Namibia’s heavy reliance on food imports, which consistently surpass exports and local production, poses a significant challenge for the country. The report points to continued trade deficits as food imports are projected to reach 13,731 tons, while exports and local production are expected to stand at a mere 5,505 tons over the next three months (July 2023 to September 2023). This reliance on imports leaves Namibia vulnerable to price fluctuations in the global market.
The El Niño weather conditions are characterized by projected heatwaves, droughts, and severe storms, all of which are expected to wreak havoc on agricultural activities and lead to a rise in farmgate prices. Past El Niño cycles have shown that they can contribute significantly to non-energy commodity prices and oil prices globally, further exacerbating the situation.
Farmers in Namibia and South Africa are expected to face increased capital expenditure for borehole drilling and irrigation systems to mitigate the impact of the impending El Niño cycle. This added cost will inevitably exert upward pressure on food prices during this period, leading to inflationary pressures for Namibians and making food prices even more expensive.
The report also highlights a widening gap between farmgate and retail prices. Farmgate prices have been outpacing retail prices, with a substantial yearly increase of 20.9% on average in June 2023, compared to a more modest rise of 11.1% in retail prices during the same period. This discrepancy has made it challenging for farmers to compete with low South African wholesale prices, leading to reduced profits and lower volumes of horticulture production. Many farmers are opting to sell their products in the informal market to overcome these challenges, further impacting the formal agricultural sector.
In the face of these threatening extreme weather conditions, the Namibian agricultural industry is navigating a complex web of challenges. Ensuring food security, stabilizing food prices, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices will be key to mitigating the impact of these weather patterns on the nation’s food supply. Collaboration between stakeholders, investment in climate-resilient farming techniques, and proactive measures to address food price fluctuations will play pivotal roles in securing a brighter and more sustainable future for Namibia’s agriculture sector.
As experts continue to monitor the situation and formulate strategies to combat these challenges, the collective effort of farmers, policymakers, and the community will be essential to weathering the storm and building a resilient food system for the nation. By staying informed and proactive, Namibia can pave the way for a more secure and prosperous agricultural future.
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