After successfully promoting improved access for locally produced fruit and vegetables to major retail and distribution channels, the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) has launched a marketing drive to consolidate these gains through the promotion of a distinct local brand named ‘Oshetu’ to denote all local produce as Namibian. The aim is to bring about ‘sustainable change in perceptions and therefore consumer buying patterns that will favour Namibian-produced fruits and vegetables’, said Agronomic Board Chief Executive Christof Brock. In the last five years, the policy measures adopted in Namibia have seen locally produced fruit and vegetables rise from 5% of national consumption to 32.5%. The NAB estimates that local supply has the capacity to substitute approximately 60% of current imports of fruit and vegetables.
According to press reports, at present ‘horticultural produce contributes between 6 and 7% to the Gross Domestic Product – a contribution that Government deems insufficient.’ Estimates from a study undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that ‘investing in the cultivation, marketing and packaging of two horticultural crops alone [potatoes and onions] could infuse as much as N$68 million into the local economy, besides creating nearly 1,000 employment opportunities.’
Meanwhile, Namibian horticulture producers have established a National Association of Horticulture Producers (Nahop), with the objective of ‘pro-actively develop[ing] ideas, concepts and plans aimed at improving the performance of horticultural production, including effective marketing, nationally, regionally and internationally.’ According to press reports, the association also envisages lobbying on ‘enhanced access to finance’, promoting appropriate quality standards for fresh produce, and the establishment of mechanisms for effective market management during seasonal peaks and in response to predatory pricing and dumping practices.
The use of trade policy tools in the horticulture sector in Namibia is evolving. The discretionary allocation of import licences linked to local purchasing requirements for fruit and vegetables played an important role in addressing shortcomings in the functioning of the fruit and vegetable supply chain in the SACU. With new habits of procurement and cooperation having been stimulated, efforts are now under way to consolidate consumer preferences behind locally produced fruit and vegetables. The launching of the ‘Oshetu’ brand and associated promotional campaign bears a resemblance to EU initiatives to support the promotion of quality-differentiated EU food and agricultural products – the major difference being that the Namibian promotional campaign is almost entirely private-sector financed.
As in the EU, however, the Namibian authorities prefer to maintain in place traditional trade policy tools (in this case import licensing arrangements implemented within a clear and transparent legal framework), as a ‘safety net’ to strengthen the functioning of the supply chain to the benefit of all sector stakeholders, including local fruit and vegetable producers. This bears close similarities to EU policy practice, where traditional trade policy tools (such as export refunds, import licences, minimum import price requirements and TRQs) and traditional market management tools (reference prices) are retained in place for use in response to exceptional developments. These similarities appear to be increasingly recognised in the process of finalising the SADC-EU EPA, where agreement has now been reached on modification of the relevant provisions dealing with quantitative restrictions.
The success of the Namibian horticulture sector initiative, which is highly regarded in government and among concerned stakeholders, has raised interest in neighbouring Botswana, where discussions are under way on the establishment of a similar scheme.