23 Nov 2006
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By William Mbangula
The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) will soon hand over two pilot marketing centres to the communities of Oshikoto and Oshana regions which were built at a cost of N$200ÃƒÆ'Ã†'ÃƒÃ¢â€šÂ¬Ã...ÃƒÆ''Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000.
The officer in charge of the NAB's Mahangu Desk here, Lungameni Lucas, confirmed this to New Era. As part of its marketing strategy of the pearl millet, locally known as mahangu, the NAB opened an office to serve Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango and Caprivi in Oshakati. It was opened at the beginning of this year to promote the product which is one of the controlled crops in the country.
The fully-equipped multi-purpose mahangu promotion centres at Omuthiya (Oshikoto) and Oshitowa (Oshana), which have been under construction since August this year, have a capacity of 40 tonnes.
In July 2005, Cabinet resolved that mahangu should become a controlled product under the NAB Act 20 of 1992. The NAB was tasked to see that all conditions are fulfilled and that all disputes related to the products be referred to it for immediate mediation.
From May 1 of each year, borders will be closed to imports/exports of mahangu in order to give the local producers ample time to market their products without unfair competition.
Since independence, farmers' cooperatives, the government and the NAB have been concerned about the mahangu production and marketing in the communal areas.
The mahangu crop, which is a staple food in the north-central regions, became the focus of attention by the relevant authorities when a task team was established in March/April 1995, which resulted in the creation of the Mahangu Marketing Intelligence Unit (MMIU) managed by the NAB on a contract basis. Its aim was to commercialize small-scale mahangu farmers in the North-Central and Kavango regions.
However, the MMIU came to an end on January 15, 2006, and since then part of its work was taken over by the Mahangu Desk of the NAB. Lucas told New Era that, since the inception of his office last January, it has made inroads through its marketing strategy among the potential consumers of mahangu, a progress which has shown a drastic increase of 80% of consumption in the schools, hospitals, army and prisons.
Such successes in the marketing strategies of increasing awareness in the commercialization of mahangu, are not without challenges, said Lucas.
Among such challenges, he noted, are the unsatisfactory prices (N$1,80 per kg) set by Namib Mills - which is a bone of contention among the crop farmers; storage of the products and lack of transport of the crop products.
NAB is currently working to formalize mahangu milling by making sure that all millers who buy or mill their own mahangu for the purpose of selling flour, will have to be registered with the NAB and be obliged to pay a levy.
Producers who sell mahangu to millers will also pay a levy to be deducted at the point of selling.