By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Plans are underway in Namibia to establish a fully-fledged Hoodia Industry, which promises good financial prospects. In USA for example, the Hoodia Industry is a multi-million-dollar industry because pure Hoodia can cost as much as US$300 per kg. A survey posted on the Internet says, “Hoodia is where the money is. At US$300 a kilogram, Hoodia is quite a lucrative commodity. It approaches the price of some high and industrial metal alloys or bulk diamonds.” Hoodia is a succulent plant that occurs in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. One of its species, Hoodia Gorgonii has appetite suppressant properties and is made into dietary pills that are on high demand in the USA and Europe. Realising the tremendous impact on the socio-economic development and cognisant of the huge demand of Hoodia products in the world, stakeholders in the industry have established the Hoodia Growers Association of Namibia (HOGRAN). HOGRAN is also concerned about the negative consequences for legitimate Hoodia producers of the adulteration of markets especially the USA market, where two-thirds of products are fake. In this regard, the association intends to ensure good control to ensure a high quality and genuine product. The association embraces all Hoodia growers whether small, medium or large-scale producers who intend to participate actively in the industry as seed producers, seedling cultivators, growers, processors and marketers to promote, protect and uphold the right to participate in the industry. Deon van Dyk, a consultant told New Era this week that one of the aims of the association would be to bring together all role players in one organisation because the best control would come about when people involved have the discipline to control themselves. As a protected plant species listed on CITES appendix 2, the association feels that there is a shared responsibility for the protection of especially wild populations which grow in Karas, Khomas, Kunene, Erongo and Hardap regions. Apart from Namibia, the plant also grows in the Northern Cape of South Africa, Australia and Mexico, in areas with semi-desert conditions. In Namibia, no export of Hoodia material has been authorised but there are fears that seeds and the live plants may be leaving Namibia to be used for cultivation purposes elsewhere. No commercial production of Hoodia is taking place yet in Namibia but there are some trial projects on individual commercial farms. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism advertised for suitable candidates for a multi-national foods company, which was investigating the potential for setting up a new sustainable and long-term raw material supply chain for Hoodia Gorgonii. The company was looking for partners with a solid track record in crop production, whose area under active production would be 75 hectares with an additional area of no less than 25 hectares, which can be irrigated and has water rights. So far, close to 80 people who have wild populations of Hoodia on communal and commercial farms, and others have shown interest in becoming part of the association. The association is now busy with registering members, after which it will solicit funds for a proper feasibility study of the industry. Then it will organise a strategic planning session with registered growers and people who cultivate and sell seedlings, as well as potential processors among others, to chart the way forward for the industry. It will also organise a high level workshop with government ministries to clarify the role, responsibilities and functions of different stakeholders. When this is done, van Dyk said, the association would then establish a commercial company, which would offer shareholding to hoodia growers, investors, processors or multi nationals and also to people in rural areas. It is envisaged that producers, who would be small, medium and large scale, would have at least 51 percent stake in the commercial company with other shares being held by outside investors. Van Dyk also said that once the study is done, the association would also get funding to assist small peasant Hoodia farmers in capacity building in order to be taken up in the mainstream economy of the Hoodia industry. The community projects will among others see the unemployed, the disabled and the able bodied elderly getting involved on a small scale, even in their back yards. Other functions of the association include being the mouthpiece of Hoodia producers of Namibia to lobby, liaise in the interest of the producers regarding other Hoodia producers outside Namibia, the international Hoodia industry, other cooperative agricultural institutions in and outside the country and other relevant government institutions. Membership of the association is open to natural persons, close corporations, companies and associations in Namibia who are permitted to produce, process and market Hoodia products. Registration fee is N$50. HOGRAN committee members are Dougal Bassingwaighte (Chairperson), Charlie Hartung (vice Chairperson), Steve Carr (Secretary), Kobus van der Westhuizen (Treasurer) and Ulrich Davids, Abraham Christian and Jansie van Zyl as members.
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