News and Information

Caprivi Farmers in Dilemma … As They Fail to Sell Old Grain
January 19, 2005

By Wezi Tjaronda
HUNDREDS of communal farmers in the Ca-privi Region where maize meal is the preferred staple food are struggling to find a local market for hundreds of tonnes of millet and sorghum harvested from the 2003/2004 season.
Both the Likwama Farmers’ Union and the Mahangu (Millet) Marketing Intelligence Unit (MMIU) say some of the affected farmers have a lot of bags of millet they cannot sell.
The good rains that fell in most parts of the country resulted in a bumper harvest for many farmers who grow this particular crop.
So far, Namib Mills has bought 305 tonnes of millet, the biggest consignment ever bought by the grain processing company since 2001.
MMIU branch manager, Clara Mbukusa said yesterday the 305 tonnes were nothing compared to what the farmers still have in their homesteads. Estimates are that farmers have up to 700 tonnes in their granaries, that they should have sold by November, which is the end of the marketing season.
“We are stuck and farmers are confused. They don’t know what to do,” said Mbukusa.
Now that the other planting season has started, farmers are in a dilemma. They are debating whether or not to plant since last year’s harvest remains unsold.
Farmers in the Caprivi Region mainly grow maize, sorghum and millet.
Extension coordinator for Agronomy at the union, Mickey Lukaezi said farmers produced beyond their consumption and selling the mahangu and sorghum, which are not controlled crops, is a problem. He said Namib Mills could only buy its allocated quota from all millet producing regions.
The problem has been aggravated by the fact that not many people in the Caprivi Region eat millet, as they prefer maize meal. With the incentives that accompany mahangu growing, many farmers grow the crop for sale, he said.
Mbukusa said last year was an abnormal situation because up until now in January, farmers are still struggling to sell their produce. Those with a very good harvest have up to 100 bags, which Mbukusa said is too much. Under normal circumstances, more than three bags are too much compared to what a household in the region consumes.
As for sorghum, the region sold 100 tonnes to Feed Master, leaving slightly over 200 tonnes, which still need to be sold.
Lukaezi said this is also a major problem as there is a large amount of unsold sorghum. People are so desperate for a market that they have brought down the price of sorghum from N$1.40 per kg to N$1.20 per kg, while the price of millet has been reduced from N$1.80 to N$1.40 per kg.
A 50 kg bag of sorghum now costs roughly N$60, which Lukaezi feels is a give-away price considering the production costs.
Apart from the lack of markets, Lukaezi said storage of the grain is one of the problems that prompted farmers to reduce their prices. Farmers normally store the produce at their homesteads where the crop can be soaked by the rain or could even be damaged by pests.
To improve the situation, Mbukusa says communal farmers have requested that their millet be treated as a controlled crop, which is sold to a pool, as is the case with maize.
Another option would be putting this staple on a school menu. Mbukusa said people were talking about including mahangu on the school menu but that has yet to be implemented.
“Farmers should push that their kids should eat mahangu (millet) in schools,” she said.
Although farmers are also complaining about the buying price of maize, which has been put at N$1 400 instead of N$1 700 per tonne, Lukaezi said local millers are buying the crop.
With the late onset of rains in the region, Lukaezi said the price of maize might increase because the demand for it may increase if the dry spell persists.
He said the government runs a pool system where over 3 000 tonnes of maize are bought but farmers still have surplus crops. Realising that it is getting expensive as farmers are paying for the cost of fumigation and storage while waiting for the pool to run, the regional farmers’ union contacted a number of other local millers to market the crop.
At the moment, millers initially bought some of the crop but stopped because their product did not have a market as some of their customers received free maize meal from the World Food Programme (WFP) as part of flood relief.


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