28 January 2014

Namibia: NDF in Secret Chicken Imports

THE decision by August 26 Logistics, a state-owned military company, to pull the plug on a N$2,2 million per month order for the provision of chicken to the army has raised eyebrows.

August 26 Logistics, tendered to supply food to the army, has not contacted Namib Poultry Industry (NPI), which is the main chicken supplier in the country, since 20 December last year. According to sources at NPI, August 26 used to pay about N$2, 2 million per month for chicken.

The sources also said the defence company used to make six orders per month.

Both Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein and Minister of Defence Nahas Angula are in the dark on whether the military firm is acquiring chicken from a local producer, despite an agreement between the two senior politicians that August 26 should continue ordering a portion from the local market, while also importing. Even the Meat Board of Namibia is in the dark about where the military firm is getting its chicken.

The secrecy over the sourcing of chicken for soldiers comes a few months after the defence ministry decided that the N$5 billion food supply tender for the military be awarded to a company partly owned by the Namibia Defence Force and a few private individuals.

The contract was a departure from what was seen as a deliberate policy to give smaller contracts to several small and medium enterprises in the country to empower the local businesses.

Angula said he will meet the management of August 26 for a briefing to get clarity on where they are sourcing the chicken from.

Schlettwein, who confirmed that the August 26 import request was initially declined to protect the local industry, said they approved a second application in December after they were convinced that the local market cannot satisfy their demands.

Schlettwein said they will make a public statement soon about the cost of chicken since they are monitoring the situation of the quotas given.

Meat Board operations manager Willem Schutz said there was an exemption in December awarded to August 26, but said it needed to be clarified.

"There was an exemption in December for products that NPI could not supply sufficient quantities but whether this is a once off need is still to be clarified. I propose that you contact the trade ministry," said Schutz.

Clement Mwaala, the managing director of August 26 Logistics, said they acquired enough chicken in December to last until the end of January. This was, however, disputed by sources who said the order could not have been sufficient.

Mwaala said they have imported from South Africa because the local industry could not satisfy their demands.

The state-owned military company initially failed to get an exemption to import chicken from South Africa last year but went back to the ministry to plead for an exemption, which they received in December.

The army business wing had increased its chicken demand three times in a space of a month and a half, an action that some insiders viewed as a tactic to prove that NPI could not meet its demands.

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