Most small-scale farmers in Namibia are stuck with surplus of fresh produce because there is currently no market for them to sell their products as a result of Covid-19, which has led to closure of many retail businesses and restricted the movement of people.
One such farmer is Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo, who yesterday said most of them are stranded with fresh produce without a market because essential retail shops do not want to buy their products. He said big retail shops that are mostly foreign-owned buy fresh produce and eggs from neighbouring South Africa and Botswana at the expense of locally produced goods. He applauded a few retail shops such as Spar and Woermann Brock for buying some produce such as spinach, tomatoes and potatoes from local small-scale farmers.
Agriculture executive director Percy Misika said the financially-troubled Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) is mandated to buy these produce from local farmers for sell to the existing formal market.
Misika said government has availed about N$3 million to AMTA to ensure they procure produce from local farmers so that local producers do not sit with unsold farm produce.
Misika urged farmers who sit with surpluses of produce to approach AMTA to sell their products.
In an interview yesterday, Nekongo disagreed, saying AMTA will also sit with this produce without a market to sell them.
“Even if AMTA buys these goods from the people, it will sit with this produce without a market to sell them. Even if they are talking about the N$3 million they have, AMTA cannot use these millions and at the end of the day, you buy potatoes that will rot. But if you compel the shops today that ‘colleagues, we need to assist and buy produce from our farmers amid the Coronavirus’, then we are talking. Just imagine the spinach that we are getting from South Africa,” Nekongo reacted.
Nekongo called on government to take agricultural production seriously and support local farmers to find a market.
Equally, he said, if government can also harvest water in the villages, then youth unemployment and poverty will be a thing of the past.
“Post-coronavirus, we need self-introspection. I have turned my mahangu field into food production. I had to dig a dam to harvest water. But when you tell these people to come up with measures to harvest water, they tell you about feasibility studies… we are just wasting resources. Our brothers and sisters are the ones fighting for food in Havana and whatever, but if they hear that in your village there is a borehole and people are producing onions or eggs and getting income every day, do you think people will stay there in those harsh conditions in Windhoek? They will come home; so those are the interventions we are talking about,” Nekongo remarked.
In terms of national silos, Misika said the reserves are now empty due to the drought situation experienced over three consecutive years.
However, he is hopeful that government will re-stock to capacity by buying local produce once farmers harvest their grains.
For farmers who wish to move around due to farming activities within their zones, Misika urged them to approach regional agriculture extensions, land reform, as well as water and rural offices to get permits. For those to move outside their zones, he said they should go to the police to obtain such travel permits.
In terms of beef exports to the European, Norwegian and Chinese markets, Misika said such income has been negatively affected, although he could not quantify such losses.