16 August 2017

Namibia: Northern Communal Farmers Sit With Surplus Grain

Windhoek — Despite government's plea for communal farmers to produce more to counter food insecurity in Namibia, many farmers are now sitting with surplus grain, as the State is unable to buy all the surplus due to the economic crunch experienced by all sectors.

Due to the good rains received this year, government reported that there was still grain available to be marketed, expected to be more than the grain already procured.

According to the latest Crop Prospects and Food Security Situation Report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, maize production in the Northern Communal Area (NCA) - Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions - indicated a significant improvement of 175 percent over last season's poor harvest, but is still 50 percent below average production.

The report says much of this produce - about 91 percent - comes from the Zambezi Region, while the remaining nine percent is from the Kavango West and Kavango East regions.

The report was prepared by the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) and its cooperating partners, which undertook a second crop assessment mission in the seven major communal crop-producing regions between May 8 and June 5.

Namibia imported large amounts of cereal in 2016 to feed over 50 percent of its population. However, Namibia National Farmers' Union (NNFU) executive director Mushokabanji Mwilima yesterday expressed concern that farmers in the NCA have a surplus of grain.

"We just came out of a terrible drought. There has been surplus production of grain from our farmers in the agronomic sector that didn't have a market for their grain. We have been in conversation with the government. We still have a total market failure within the Northern Communal Areas. There are a lot of market changes taking place in terms of production," he noted.

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry permanent secretary Percy Misika confirmed the grain surplus, but said government will secure such grain from farmers after the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) managed to secure N$26 million from its reserves.

He said Namibia has a capacity of about 22,900 tonnes of grain while 4,000 of this total was derived from last year's harvest.

ALthough it's the Agro Marketing and Trading Agency (AMTA)'s role to buy grain from farmers to be stored in national silos, the government-owned entity has since this month depleted its funds for the year and is therefore unable to do so. Following urgent meetings between the ministry, AMTA and the NAB, the parties reached a solution that NAB would assist AMTA will an amount of N$26 million for that purpose.

AMTA managing director Lucas Lungameni said they are busy registering farmers, which he says is necessary to avoid the possibility of procuring illegally imported grain at the expense of locally produced grain during the closed border period (marketing season).

To date, he noted, AMTA has procured 3 978.97 tonnes of grain, of which 3 162.12 tonnes is maize, while 816.83 tonnes is mahangu.

This amount, he says, was procured from green scheme projects, small-scale farmers in the Zambezi, Kavango East and West, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and the Otjozondjupa regions.

Lungameni said on August 1, AMTA temporarily suspended the grain procurement programme due to the depletion of the revolving grain procurement fund. He said this was done to honour the cheques that were under circulation, while the process of replenishing the revolving fund was receiving urgent attention from government.

"This matter has been resolved and AMTA is ready to resume with the grain procurement programme," he noted and informed farmers that the issuing of cheques by AMTA will be phased out by November 1, hence farmers are urged to open bank accounts.

This is being done to allow for the phasing out of cheques by the Bank of Namibia, starting December 31.

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