23 February 2018

Namibia: No Place to Store Nation's Fresh Produce

THE managing director of the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency, Lukas Lungameni, says government needs to build a national storage facility as currently fresh produce cannot be stored because there is no such facility available.

Plans for the construction of a N$20 million fresh food storage facility in Tsumeb have still not started as there is no land available yet, according to Lungameni. He was presenting the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (Amta) 2016-2017 annual report during the stakeholders' annual general meeting in Windhoek yesterday.

A national crop storage facility will allow food to be consumed months after harvest rather than immediately, which is the current status quo. The storage facility is expected to store crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and cabbages for up to at least six months.

Lungameni also said the facility needs to be built as a matter of urgency because local producers at times oversupply seasonal crops such as onions, butternuts and cabbage and are forced to discard these crops when the market is oversaturated and lose profit as a result.

"If there is no market the crops need to be stored until there is a high demand again. We are waiting for land to be approved by the Tsumeb municipality to construct the facility, but the process is slow," he said.

Lungameni said when the supply of a certain fresh produce commodity is low, the country depends heavily on imports, especially when such crops are out of season in the country.

"The construction of a storage facility will reduce our reliance on imports [of crops] as we will have plenty of crops that have been stored for consumption at a later stage," he explained.

Lungameni said Amta has partnered with a private investor to run the storage facility.

The current National Strategic Food Reserve (NSFR) storage capacity, Lungameni added, is 22 900 metric tonnes, which are 34% of the targeted storage, while the aim is to have a national storage capacity of 67 000 metric tonnes, enough for six months at any given time.

In his presentation, Lungameni also said during the 2016/2017 financial year, a total of 4 885,54 metric tonnes of crops to the value of N$34 million was marketed through Amta's three fresh produce business hubs.

These include the Rundu hub, which produced 1 545 metric tonnes at a value of N$8,9 million, Ongwediva (1 932 metric tonnes for N$20,8 million) and the Windhoek collection hub at 1 408 metric tonnes to the tune of N$4,9 million.

The main produce during this period were potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, butternuts, watermelons, gem squash, carrots, green peppers and sweet potatoes.

Lungameni said the total volume traded through the hubs has increased by 40%.

He said Amta's budget subsidy from government declined from N$20 million in the 2015/2016 financial years to N$15 million in the 2016/2017 financial year, representing a decline of 25%.

"Support from government subsidiary represents only 19% of the total budget," he said.

He said funding from the agronomic levies total for 2015 2016 financial year was N$26 million compared to N$18,4 million for the 2016/2017 financial year, adding that support from levies represents 23% of Amta's budget.

He said part of Amta's challenge was also the fact that there were limited accessibility and breakthrough into the fresh produce market by Amta agents due to competition from well-established traders.

Lungameni also bemoaned the high cost of using laboratories in South Africa to conduct inspections on fresh produce, saying although 14 Amta technical staff completed training for conformity inspection conducted by the Perishable Products Export Control Board of South Africa last year, Namibia still heavily depends on the neighbouring country for inspections.

Amta yesterday also announced that they were planning to construct the first laboratory to inspect fresh produce at the Windhoek hub.

Amta's producers include green schemes, olushandjas, commercial farmers, the National Youth Service as well as small-scale farmers.

Deputy minister of agriculture Anna Shiweda, who was at the presentation, urged the agency to continue its operations in line with the ministry and other relevant agencies of government including AgriBusDev, the Namibia Agronomic Board, the Meat Board of Namibia and Meatco.

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