Government will need at least N$555 million until March 2016 to feed 578 480 starving Namibians, who are adversely affected by the drought. In the meantime it has urged the private sector not to charge exorbitant prices for goods and services needed to respond to the drought.
Government in April announced that it has availed N$300 million to implement interim drought measures, while the final drought assessment report is being concluded.
Yesterday, while briefing the media on the outcomes of last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, information minister Tjekero Tweya said Cabinet approved the report on the 2014/15 Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation and National Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis, as well as the recommendations for the implementation of the programme during the current financial year.
Tweya said government is considering importing milled maize from Zambia, which will be distributed under the drought relief programme, mainly because of the high “exorbitant prices” charged by local millers should government decide to import grain to be milled locally.
“The drought relief programme should not be seen as a profit-making exercise, but it seems some local millers saw an opportunity to milk government through exorbitant prices,” he said. “Some private companies charged as much as N$34 million for three million cans of fish that will be used as relish during the programme,” he said.
When news started leaking some time back that government is planning to import milled maize, several local millers opposed the plans and approached the Agronomic Board, accusing government of trying to kill off the local milling industry, while at the same time forsaking its own ‘Growth at Home’ policy by importing milled maize instead of importing grain to create jobs for local millers.
“This is not a money-making exercise. The millers should contribute to this programme in [reducing] their prices to mill maize and distribute it at a minimal cost. But seems like our millers do not see the picture in that spirit,” Tweya said.
As the country struggles to ensure that sufficient milled maize is in stock to feed the country, South African President Jacob Zuma’s N$100 million pledge made during a two-day state visit to Namibia in 2013 may come in handy.
Last month it was reported that there are discussions ongoing between the two governments as to whether the donation should be made in the form of milled maize imported directly from South Africa, as well as equipment needed for the drilling and installation of boreholes.
Tweya said yesterday the discussions on how the donation will be made are still ongoing.
In June the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on how the N$100 million drought donation from South Africa will be utilized, but the document does not clearly specify whether the import of milled maize is one of the measures being considered.