Senior reporter, Albertina Nakale, talks to Meke Uushona, the corporate branding and promotion officer for the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), on how the agency is working to market and promote local agro-produce.
Albertina Nakale (AN): How far is AMTA in ensuring the fresh produce, such as the Kalimbeza rice, are available at major retailers country-wide?
Meke Uushona (MU): AMTA is mandated to perform the following: To implement the marketing, trade and research of the agricultural products as well as control imports and exports of agronomic and horticultural products at ports of entry/exit in Namibia; To inspect the Facilities and Farms for compliance to Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards and specific crop marketing standards compliance as well as implement food safety in Namibia; To manage the National Fresh Produce Business Hubs and National Strategic Food Reserves towards attainment of food safety and security.
AN: Packaging was identified as one of the crucial components that need addressing. What is AMTA doing to address this challenge for people to easily identify and buy Namibian produce in shops?
MU: Packaging is very crucial for visibility of local produce, hence, AMTA is encouraging all local fresh produce to be packaged in an identifiable manner to promote the Namibian brand. Packaging, as well as food processing, is one of the business opportunities available at our Hubs. We wish to encourage business people to consider these opportunities. We have sent out notices promoting business opportunities and these are just some of them.
AN: Kalimbeza rice went commercial last year June when the Minister of Agriculture launched it. Can you tell us at which shops around the country this rice is available?
MU: The rice is currently only available at all of our Hubs. In Ongwediva, Rundu and at the Windhoek collection Hub. Plans are underway to ensure the rice becomes available in retail shops country-wide.
AN: AMTA has identified markets where to sell. Can you brief us on what AMTA’s course of action is in accessing these markets, i.e setting up distribution? In other words, what is AMTA’s timeline to ensure that the national produce is readily available at major retailers in the country, immediately after each harvest?
MU: The facilities belong to the government and were strategically positioned to ensure everyone has reasonable access to them. AMTA trades through market agents who sign agreements with retailers or individuals dealing with fresh produce. AMTA is equipped with facilities, which ensure smooth trading via a system called market share promotions (MSP). The MSP ensures a minimum of 44 per cent of the total turnover of a given trader is sourced from the local producer(s). It is also good to note that AMTA provides ideal transport to ensure that local fresh produce reach the markets.
AN: How many hubs does AMTA have at the moment and are you planning to expand to other regions or towns?
MU: Currently AMTA has two hubs, one in Ongwediva and one in Rundu. These are 5000 square meters and a small collection hub in Windhoek at Lafrenz Industrial Area. There is a hub under construction in Windhoek and this will be the biggest of all the hubs in the country. It will be 10 000 square meters. The hubs were strategically placed to ensure that everyone is within reasonable reach of them.
AN: What other products does AMTA market besides rice and fresh produce?
MU: Besides the fresh produce, AMTA is also managing the National Strategic Food Reserves (Silos) on behalf of the government. This is to ensure that the country has reserve food in case of an emergency need in the country, especially when we are suffering of drought. With the current completion of the Okongo Silo’s expansion, from 500 metric tons to 4500 metric tons, it has brought the total National Grain Storage capacity to 22 900 metric tons. As a result of persistent drought the country has been experiencing during the past years, the reserve has released grain to the OPM-DDRM in order to respond to the food shortage in the country and to distribute it to the needy. Since April 2015 the total tonnage of 508 tons of Mahangu and 22 365.635 tons of white maize have been released from the reserves. AMTA, through the National Strategic Food Reserve division, is currently buying grain from producers including the Green Scheme Projects, which are the main suppliers to replenish the reserves. Therefore, AMTA is calling all interested surplus grain producers that are willing to sell maize and mahangu to us immediately.
AN: How much does the rice cost?
MU: The Kalimbeza rice is N$24 per 2kgs. This rice is so tasty and we would like to encourage people to try it out. You have not tasted good rice until you taste the Kalimbeza rice.
AN: What products can the public currently find in the hubs and when were they harvested?
MU: The produce currently in the hubs ranges from tomatoes, gemsquash, onions, potatoes, oranges etc. Produce is collected immediately when harvested from farms so as to keep them fresh for consumers.
Caption (Pic: Meke.jpg): Meke Uushona, the corporate branding and promotion officer for the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA).
Caption (Pic: AMTA Produces.jpg): Some of the produce available at the AMTA’s fresh produce hubs across the country. (Photos contributed)