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Updated May 22, 2020

 

Harvet of Pear Millet in Namibia
A woman harvests pearl millet, locally known as mahangu, near Rundu in northern Namibia. It is a staple food in the Southern African country.

 

Namibia is set to suspend imports of white maize and pearl millet in an effort to protect local farmers from foreign competition. The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) announced that these imports will be suspended starting June 1 and June 30, respectively, and ending sometime in November, after millers had taken up the entire local harvest. This while Namibia’s agricultural sector is still recovering from a three-year drought. Grain stores were already depleted in late April, according to the executive director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Percy Misika.

Such a policy harkens back to an earlier economic era for developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa, using a strategy known as import substitution industrialization to reduce dependency on foreign goods in order to encourage domestic growth. 

 

Namibia’s dry, hot climate makes this import suspension gambit a risky one.

 

What makes this decision relatively strange is that agriculture contributes only about 5 percent to Namibia’s total GDP, yet close to 70 percent of Namibians are dependent either directly or indirectly on the agricultural sector. Nonetheless, the country’s dry, hot climate makes this import suspension gambit a risky one, and unlikely to be replicated any time soon. Heavier-than-usual rainfall may help Namibia reach its maize and millet quotas this year, but it cannot rely on abnormal weather patterns in perpetuity.

 

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