Moves to Classify Mahangu Crop

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The move to have mahangu classified as a controlled crop and the envisaged establishment of silos in various parts of the country will minimize cases where producers have their cereal rot due to lack of a market. Two years ago, communal producers in the Caprivi region lost almost 5 000 tonnes of mahangu due to lack of a market. Ricky Lilami, who gave an agronomic overview of the Caprivi region, said the surplus recorded in the region was left to the farmers and subsequently destroyed by pests. Although local millers bought some, the majority was left to rot. Efforts to get the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to create a pool fell on deaf ears, said Lilami. In the northern communal areas, farmers are said to be having their harvest from the last growing season because they do not have markets, according to Etuhole Ingo, Programme Coordinator of the Namibia National Farmers Union. Chris Brock, Namibia Agronomic Board’s Chief Executive Officer told the NAB full board meeting, which was attended by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, that the incident in the Caprivi has given a push for the board to recommend that mahangu be declared a controlled crop. “In a month or so, the ministry will recommend to cabinet to declare mahangu as a controlled crop,” said Brock. When this is done, Brock added, the country would be able to deal with any amount of surplus. This will also enable mahangu meal to be given out as part of food parcels and also to be part of the daily menu at schools. Agriculture Minister Dr Nicky Iyambo told the meeting the NAB has been entrusted with the establishment of silos in various parts of the country to retain any surplus in any part of the country. Pohamba said the move to classify mahangu as a controlled crop would bring more benefits to producers and millers of mahangu because they would have access to the same conducive marketing environment that is being enjoyed by wheat and maize growers. While the country has been blessed with good rains since December last year, which may enable it to register a surplus, crops have also been destroyed because of too much water. Lilami said crops in Sangwali and Malengalenga in Caprivi region have been destroyed by rainwater. “Unlike sorghum and millet, maize cannot stand in water for a week or two,” he added. The northern communal areas also face the same problem of too much rainwater, which also makes it difficult for farmers to weed their crop fields. The amount of rain has also made farmers weed their crop fields more than two times, said Ingo. As for the Kavango region, irrigation producers are experiencing problems in harvesting due to intensive rainy conditions. Some pro-jects, said Schalk Oosthui-zen, have received 1 000 mm of rainfall, which has caused leaching of nutrients from beneath the roots, thus creating nutrient deficiencies. From March until September this year, the region is expecting a harvest of 13 000 tonnes of white maize compared to 15 000 tonnes that was harvested during the last crop growing season. In November however, 5 000 tonnes of wheat is expected to be harvested from the region. Irrigated areas of the Omusati Region at Etunda expect 3 000 tonnes of white maize, and 2 000 tonnes of wheat. Apart from the traditional crops, the area has six hectares of banana plantation, which Oosthuizen said looked promising. The Hardap Irrigation project was expecting a harvest of 13 500 tonnes of white maize, but after the recent floods this estimate has gone down to 8 100 tonnes. According to Gerhard van der Merwe, about 50 percent of the Lucerne plantation within the scheme has also drowned, which may result in a shortage of Lucerne for the dairy industry in the near future. The president challenged the Namibian Agronomic Board to ensure that Namibian producers have access to up-to-date information in respect of high value crops for export markets. He noted that while efforts have been made to strengthen the agronomic sector, many challenges still exist such as erratic rainfall that makes it difficult for farmers to plan. Pohamba urged the board to encourage farmers to adopt more cost effective and ecologically sustainable drought tolerant cultivation methods. “At the same time, you should encourage more farmers to participate in crop risk insurance so that they are covered when disasters occur.”