NKURENKURU – The prices at which the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) is buying
mahangu grain from local producers has been hugely criticised by producers in the Kavango West region, describing it as peanuts.
The sellers travelled from various parts of the region to the Kahenge Agricultural Development Centre (ADC), where the agency was procuring last week to make money from their mahangu. Their hopes were, however, crushed by the prices offered.
The prices offered during this year’s marketing season are N$4.99 per kg, N$249.50 per 50kg and N$4 988.50 per ton.
Frans Muhepa from Ekuli village said it was his first time selling his mahangu with the agency and was shocked to learn about the prices, saying it was too low.
“Their prices are too low. We didn’t know about it; if we knew beforehand that this is their price, then we would not have brought our mahangu,” Muhepa said.
He added that it was better to have sought for customers in villages.
Another subsistence farmer to have shared the same disappointment is Pauline Musimba, who said their harvest was good this year; therefore, she wanted to sell some to get money for personal use.
“We regret coming here,” Musimba said.
Despite learning about the dissatisfying prices, these farmers said they were left with no option but to still sell their mahangu, as they had already spent between N$40 to N$50 per bag for transport; hence, they had no choice; they felt compelled to conclude the sale because going back with the sacks meant extra cost in vain.
They indicated that they are making a huge loss, considering the efforts and resources they spent during the production period.
“There’s a huge loss because when we start clearing our crop fields, we sometimes spend our mahangu or money, then during ploughing, some of us do not have cattle, so we have to pay others to plough for us; you have to budget a N$1 000 or N$1 500 to finish ploughing a crop field. What we spend during the production process is more than what we are selling these mahangu for,” said Musimba.
“I hire a tractor to plough for me; one hectare is for free and the rest you pay for them. My whole crop field is not really clean, as I recently started ploughing with a tractor, so I wanted to get enough money and spend some of it to clear the hectares where the tractor did not plough this year, so that next year it will reach there – but looking at what we are getting, I will not manage,” said another disappointed subsistence farmer Cesilia Hamutenya.
Their plea is that the prices offered are increased to between N$500 to N$600 per 50kg, which they said is equivalent to the prices in the informal market.
Wilhemina Handunge the operation manager at AMTA clarified the agency is not responsible for setting up the prices but rather corporates with the prices set by the regulatory body, which facilitates the prices.
“AMTA is just a buyer like any other and does not determine the price, but AMTA only implements the price as communicated from the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) which is the regulatory body every year,” she said.
She further stressed the prices are normally negotiated between the board and the different producers, and other stakeholders every year before the marketing season.