No Milk Today?

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK A number of stores in the country are experiencing fresh-milk shortages due to what some term the industry’s inability to produce enough milk for the whole country. But Namibia Dairies, the country’s only milk processor, yesterday said it was only experiencing temporary problems resulting in difficulties with delivery of the product since Thursday last week. Ohlthaver & List’s Group Manager: Public Relations, Patrick Hashingola, told New Era yesterday the company had problems with the delivery of milk because of teething issues at the production line, involving among others new systems at the distribution department. Ohlthaver & List is the holding company of Namibia Dairies. “As of now, there are no shortages except that we could not deliver in time, which led to some shops not getting milk on time,” he said. The problem, he said, was rectified yesterday when huge stocks were released onto the market. “Workers at Namib Dairies worked throughout the long weekend to rectify the problem,” he added. Last weekend, some supermarket chain stores had neither fresh nor UHT milk on their shelves except for imported long-life skim milk. A supermarket chain manager who asked not to be identified said this resulted from the industry’s failure to cope with the demand of the local market especially after the implementation of the 40 percent levy on imported milk. He said apart from problems in getting milk from South Africa because of the drought which has hit the industry there, importing milk is now expensive due to the levy. “It is not a good situation. Imported milk is expensive as we have to add 40 percent to the selling price,” the source said, adding that other milk products including Namibian-made milk products were also in short supply. In March, the Milk Producers Organisation (MPO) of South Africa warned its consumers in South Africa to brace for milk shortages throughout the winter period. Namibia imports UHT milk and other milk products such as yoghurts and cheese from that country. Namibia Dairies said at that time the situation down south did not pose an immediate threat to Namibia. A manager at Shoprite Checkers yesterday also said the chain store has been struggling to get fresh milk for some time, adding that the management had a meeting yesterday morning with milk producers to get an explanation about what was going on. However, New Era could not get comment from a manager that the paper was referred to. The Dairy Producers Association was also locked up in meetings for the whole of yesterday and could not be reached for comment. The industry had applied to SACU through the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) to extend IIP for local UHT milk and to increase the 42 cents per litre levy to 40 percent of the import value to bring some relief to the dairy industry, which was going through turbulent times due to more competitively priced milk from neighbouring South Africa. The ministry felt that 42 cents per litre was inadequate under the current dairy market situation, and that it should be converted to 40 percent in line with WTO decisions in the July framework agreement. Permanent Secretary of MTI, Andrew Ndishishi, said at the time the ministry had to balance the interests of importers of dairy products, the short-term benefits of consumers and the long-term sustainability of the industry as a whole in making its decisions. “We also had to look at the potential of jobs to be created in the industry, the potential of many small-scale and emerging farmers to participate in an expanded dairy industry and the potential economic value of the UHT milk,” he said at the time. Some importers and distributors of milk last year took the ministry to task over its intention to have the levy increased, saying they wondered whether Namibian consumers would indeed benefit from the protection because even though local producers have a price advantage in the light of the levy, local milk is sold at a higher price than the imported one, which leads to them being accused of dumping the product here. Importers represent almost 46 percent of the sale of dairy products. Yesterday, the supermarket chain manager said this situation would go on for a long time, resulting in consumers going without milk unless the government decides to do away with the levy.