Mahangu piles up as govt refuses to buy

The government has left northern mahangu producers high and dry without a market for last year's harvest.

07 January 2019 | Agriculture

An award-winning mahangu producer in the Ohangwena Region says he will not cultivate mahangu this year as he still has 900 kg, or 1 800 bags, left from last year's harvest and the government is not buying mahangu anymore.

Samuel Nepunda (84), who has won awards issued by the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), says he produced many tonnes of mahangu last year in the hope of selling it to the government's Agro Marketing and Trading Agency (AMTA).

To his disappointment AMTA told him it was no longer buying grain.

Now that this year's growing season has started Nepunda says he will not sow mahangu again, as his stores are still full from last year.

Nepunda farms on about 30 hectares at Okongo.

“I started producing mahangu in 1990. Back then I could produce enough for the family and sell the surplus in the informal market.

“From 2010, when the government started buying grain through AMTA, I registered myself and started supplying them with tonnes of mahangu,” Nepunda says.

“It was a good market and also rewarding. I invested a lot of money to improve productivity and in 2017 I sold them mahangu worth N$40 000. Last year I had a bumper harvest and I went to AMTA at Okongo to register my interest to supply them with mahangu as usual. To my disappointment they told me that they were not buying mahangu.'

Nepunda says he is unhappy because after doing good business with AMTA for the past eight years he invested a lot of money and each year he worked extra hard to produce a big harvest to earn him a good return.

Now that AMTA is no longer buying mahangu he has nowhere to store the grain.

“I strongly believe in the principle that for me to make money I have to spend money. Every year I spent a lot of money on tilling the land, hiring people to cultivate and harvest, and buying petrol for the thrashing machine. “They were supposed to tell us at the beginning of the rainy season that they were not buying mahangu that year.

“Instead, they waited for us to produce and then after we made enquiries they told us that they were not buying mahangu. Where do they think we will store all this mahangu if we produced it for their silos?” Nepunda says he was hopeful when he heard that the ministry of poverty eradication was establishing a food bank in the region.

“I went to the regional council's office to enquire how the regional producers would benefit from the project. To my disappointment again I was told that there is no such provision.”

The Agro Marketing and Trading Agency was the only formal market for mahangu.

Earlier, Namibian Sun was reliably informed that the agency had not received any money from the agriculture ministry to buy mahangu from northern farmers last year.

A source at AMTA said that it usually procured mahangu on behalf of the agriculture ministry but last year the ministry had not allocated it any money, nor issued instructions to that effect.

Farmers supplying mahangu to AMTA used to be paid N$5 400 per tonne or N$5.40 per kilogramme of mahangu.

The ministry of agriculture has not responded to several enquiries made by this newspaper since last year.

The ministry has silos for mahangu and maize managed by AMTA at Tsandi, Okongo, Omuthiya, Rundu and Katima Mulilo.

In 2010 AMTA bought 240 tonnes of mahangu, followed by 742 tonnes in 2011, 504 tonnes in 2012, 175 tonnes in 2013, 486 tonnes in 2014, 61 tonnes in 2015 and 1 500 tonnes last year.

In 2017 AMTA's operational manager for national strategic food reservation, Wilhelmina Handunge, told Namibian Sun that since they had started buying mahangu in 2010, farmers had improved the quality to the standard AMTA was looking for.

Nepunda says anybody wishing to buy mahangu can contact him on 081 279 6866.

ILENI NANDJATO

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