Reliable prices crucial for horticulturists

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Tsinstabis

While the creation of the Agro Marketing Trading Agency (AMTA) has addressed the issue of marketing fresh produce for Namibian farmers, it has not addressed the issue of pricing.

This is according to Ally Angula, Managing Director of Leap Holdings, which also owns Leap Agriculture, the group’s farming arm that focuses on supplying fresh produce to retailers and the general public.
The farming operation is based approximately 30 km outside Tsintsabis in the Oshikoto Region. Leap Holdings is owned by Angula and her husband, Manna Matswetu.

“With agriculture, the input costs do not change, but the price we get for our produce changes. For example, if our input costs are N$70 per hectare then sometimes our prices fetch N$70 to N$75 per hectare. However, two weeks later the exact same crop can fetch as little as N$45 per hectare”, explained Angula. She attributed the fluctuation of prices to excess produce on the market.

Angula continued that to address the unfavourable price shifts, Leap Agri is working tirelessly to ensure it increases production capacity for its fresh produce.

“To address these price changes farmers need a secondary market. For instance, at Leap Agri we will be launching a dehydrated onion product during November,” she said, adding that Leap Agri will soon have additional processing capacity to add value to its fresh produce.

Another challenge, according to Angula – who is a chartered accountant by profession – is the lack of understanding by financial institutions when it comes to funding horticultural operations.

“Financing institutions need to better understand horticulture, as these farmers need to plant their produce at specific times of the year. Not planting on time can severely affect horticultural operations,” Angula remarked.
Leap Agri’s main crop is potatoes followed by onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage. During a visit to Leap Agri on Saturday, envisaged farm manager, Obey Madziturira, noted that after a slight delay with fertiliser, potato planting on about seven hectares of land would start today.

The farm has already planted three hectares of sweet potatoes and is in the process of planting three hectares of cabbage. According to Madziturira, they will commence with onion planting by mid-November, but will do so in phases corresponding to market conditions. Madziturira explained that planting is done manually and generally he requires 10 people to plant one hectare over two days.

Leap Agri’s centre-pivot irrigation system sources water straight from boreholes in the area, which Madziturira described as reliable and abundant sources of underground water.

Leap Agri currently runs two centre-pivot irrigation systems, each using about 90 cubic metres per hour, and they intend to install a third centre-pivot in the near future. “Namibia’s soil is much more difficult to manage compared to Zimbabwe’s soil. However, the readily available information on how to deal with different soil conditions makes the entire process easier,” Madziturira said.

Madziturira noted that some of the challenges after planting include rabbits that eat the sweet potato leaves, as well as nematodes – parasitic worms that destroy crop roots. He deals with the rabbits by erecting scarecrows and said the best way to deal with nematodes is to regularly rotate crops.

Leap Agri currently employs 11 permanent staff, but Madziturira mentioned that the business provides work for about 80 seasonal workers during harvesting.

Within the Leap Namibia Holdings group, which was founded in 2013, Leap Manufacturing designs and manufactures garments that are retailed through the My Republik brand, which has an outlet in Windhoek’s Grove Mall.

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