NAMIBIA Staple Food Prices Rockets As Winter Hits

By JO-MARÉ DUDDY – NAMIBIA – Lean times will continue through the winter with food price analysts expecting more expensive meat, maize meal, fruit and vegetables.

Releasing the latest First Capital Food Price Index, economist Martin Mwinga said the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the north-east, as well as the outbreak of Rift Valley fever in the Hardap and Karas regions, “will put upward pressure on meat prices over the coming months”. He also expects fruit and vegetables to become more expensive, “partly due to increased demand during the World Cup”. Also driving fruit and vegetable prices will be fuel and electricity price hikes.

Consumers’ shopping budget will take a further knock by the increase in the maize meal price this month.

“With the closure of border posts for import of maize, and the announcement by Namib Mills and Bokomo Namibia of a maize meal price increase of 10 to 15 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, maize prices will start rising significantly over the coming months,” Mwinga said. He said First Capital’s index for meat and chicken prices showed an increase of 20,9 per cent from January to April, which was in line with international price trends.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), world meat prices were on average 12 per cent higher in the first three months 2010 than in the corresponding period of 2009,” Mwinga said.

He said despite the improved global economic situation, the outlook for beef production this year remained subdued because of the still relatively high feed prices, drought and outbreak of diseases.

On the bright side though, Mwinga believes that poultry will become cheaper.

“Poultry production in 2010 is expected to rebound significantly as feed prices are anticipated to fall later this year because of a global and regional bumper maize crop. The reduction in feed costs and high meat prices is likely to put downward pressure on poultry meat,”

he said.

The expected bumper harvest will also result in cheaper maize and this “may benefit cereal deficit countries like Namibia, especially from September 2010 after the reopening of borders”, he said.

Mwinga expects sugar prices to continue falling, milk prices not to rise “significantly” and oil and fat prices to “remain firm”. As far as bread is concerned, he forecasts a “generally favourable wheat supply outlook”, which should drive international wheat prices