2015 National horticulture day held at sonop on the banks of the orange river

Windhoek, 28 September 2015: The achievements of Namibian producers and traders in fresh fruit and vegetables were recognised at the 2015 National Horticulture Day on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at farm Sonop at Noordoewer on the banks of the Orange River. The National Horticulture Day is organised by the Namibian Agronomic Board annually and nominees for the title of Horticulture Producer of the Year in the Emerging, Medium and Large Scale Categories are awarded trophies and certificates for achieving maximum yield on their farms and reducing the need for retailers to import fruit and vegetables that can easily be produced locally. Traders are also awarded in the Small Scale, Medium, Large, Very Large and Mega Categories for supporting local producers and for achieving or even exceeding the minimum percentage of fresh fruit and vegetables that must be purchased locally, according to the Market Share Promotion.

Present at the National Horticulture Day Awards Ceremony were the Chairperson of the Namibian Agronomic Board, Ms Sirkka Iileka, the CEO of the of the Namibian Agronomic Board, Mr Christof Brock, a representative of AMTA, Mr Fidelis Mwazi, a representative of Agribusdev, Mr Paulus Mungoba and representatives of the //Kharas Region, the Honourable Hansina Christian, Special Advisor the Honourable Lucia Basson, governor of the //Kharas Region and Councillor Paulus Efraim. Ms Iileka delivered the keynote address on behalf of the Honourable John Mutorwa, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. Nominees for the title of Producer of the Year across the three categories are evaluated by a selection committee comprising representatives of the National Horticulture Task Team (NHTT), the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), the Namibia Horticulture Producers (NAHOP) and Agribusdev. The selection committee travelled throughout the horticulture producing areas across the country doing their assessments and appraisals of the nominated farms. The winners and runners up in each category for 2015 are:

Large Scale
Winner: Albert van der Merwe, Sonop, Noordoewer
Runner Up: Sikondo Irrigation in Rundu
Medium Scale
Winner: Jimmy O’Kennedy, Patria, Stampriet
Runner Up: Thomas Negonga
Emerging Farmer
Winner: Shetuka Shetuka, Olusandja
Runner Up: Bartholomeus Muyenga, Rundu
Traders who have complied with – or exceeded – their minimum of 41.5% Namibian Market Share Promotion targets as calculated by traders’ statistics compiled by AMTA are:

Mega Category:
Winner: The Spar Group
Runner Up: Woerman Brock Inland
Very Large:
Winner: The Market Place
Runner Up: Nabeel Fresh Produce
Winner: Kavango Supermarket
Runner Up: //Kharas Fruit and Veg
Winner: Brenners Fruit and Veg
Runner Up: Oceano Atlantic Trading
Small Scale:
Winner: Kuiseb Fresh Produce
Runner Up: Fonteine Trading
The Namibian Market Share Promotion – or MSP as it is known in the horticulture industry – is a concept that is critical in the development and growth of the horticultural sector in the Republic of Namibia. The MSP was implemented in 2005 whereby all traders in horticultural fresh fruit and vegetables were required to purchase at least 5% of all their fruit and vegetables from local producers. This minimum percentage has increased steadily over the past ten years to its current level of 41.5%. In his keynote address, delivered by Ms Iilka, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said about the 41.5% MSP, “The industry organisational structures that have enabled this remarkable feat. The progress in this sector has been tremendous and from a Government perspective, this translates into huge strides because it means that as a nation, we are in a position to become increasingly food secure and food self-sufficient and less dependent on food imports to sustain our population.” He went on to say, “The objective is to offer Namibian citizens fresh fruit and vegetables that have been proudly produced in Namibia and produce that is not only better and fresher, but produce that helps stimulate employment and our economy.”

“It is critical to build a strong marketing mechanism that bridges the gap between producers to consumers in ways that are cost effective, efficient, regulated and properly managed. The process of supplying fresh produce from the land and onto the tables of Namibian consumers comprises a value chain of producers, traders and consumers that makes up a vibrant and strong agronomic industry within our borders,” the Chairperson of the NAB, Ms Sirkka Iileka told the gathering of producers and traders, “And this is the objective of the Namibian Agronomic Board – to promote a vibrant and dynamic agronomic industry that is inclusive of all its stakeholders. The NAB –facilitates the collaboration between producers’- , and traders’ associations, for vibrant stakeholder engagement required to serve the needs of the industry,” she added.

The National Horticulture Day alternates with being held on the winner of the Emerging Category’s farm and that of the Large Scale Category. Last year, the event was held in Outapi, the winner of the Emerging Scale Category winner. This year the event was at Sonop, the winner of the Large Scale Category for 2015. The afternoon was spent with Albert van der Merwe sharing production best practices for the large scale production of tomatoes at Sonop Farms. Sonop produces tomatoes, butternuts, green peppers for the Namibian and South African markets and table grapes for export. Altogether, they cultivate 50 hectares of tomatoes, of which ten hectares are cultivated under shade netting in order to extend the season of tomato availability. “In the summer it is so hot here in Noordoewer, that it is not possible to produce tomatoes on open lands during November/December so the shade net structure with misters assists in extending the season.” The shade net production system has a potential of producing 180 tonnes per hectare.

Alongside the netted crop stands a conventional tomato crop with a plant population of 12 000 plants per hectare. Van der Merwe demonstrated the innovative techniques that are introduced to their farming practice in an effort to increase yield per hectare. By increasing the height of the support poles, an addition support wire is spun between the conventional wires and every single shoot run at a 45° angle to the additional support wire, effectively adding one metre to the plant and maximising its potential yield. This means that Sonop doubles its capacity to the equivalent of 24 000 plants per hectare and therefore, the potential yield per plant increases. The 45° angle is a practical manoeuvre so that farm workers are still able to access and harvest from a plant that is double in size – but not double the height – of the conventional planting block.

In keeping with the theme, “Soil – building a productive, food secure Namibia from the ground up”, van der Merwe says, “The quality of the soil at Sonop is my focus at the moment. Soil is my biggest asset and soil must be productive for generations to come.” In addition to crop rotation, van der Merwe also plants cover crops that are incorporated into the soil as green manure. He’ll also be focussed on producing his own compost to keep his soil in top producing condition.