Omaheke dairy farmer Frans Murangi has complained to minister of agriculture, water and land reform Calle Schlettwein about the decision of Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) to sell malted barley, saying this would cause the collapse of the dairy sector.
Malted barley is a by-product of the brewing process and is used as stock feed, which is exclusive to Namibia Dairies.
The brewery recently decided to sell all used malted barley exclusively to Namibia Dairies, which runs the !Aimab Superfarm dairy project at Mariental.
In a letter copied to prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Omaheke governor Pijoo Nganate, Murangi said NBL was creating a monopoly, which is in contravention of the Namibia Competition Commission Act.
Murangi owns Travena Dairy, with 91 cows, 48 of which are currently producing milk.
He has 12 workers and supplies fresh milk to government schools in the Omaheke region, and to low-income communities at Otjinene, Gobabis and in Windhoek.
Murangi says in addition to producing milk, he also buys from other farmers.
“I have shops in Windhoek – one at Katutura, another at Greenwell Matongo, and the third at Otjomuise, where we sell fresh and cultured milk (omaere), mainly to vulnerable communities at affordable prices,” he says.
Murangi is also the chairperson of the Omaheke Emerging Dairy Farmers’ Association.
He says his enterprise may collapse if NBL does not reverse its decision to sell barley exclusively to Namibia Dairies.
“This agreement is retrogressive and carries adverse and undesirable outcomes for the dairy sector,” he wrote to Schlettwein.
“I buy about 50 tonnes a month, constituting about 60% of my feed requirement for cows in milk. I do not know what I will do when the existing stock runs out,” he says, adding that the future of his 12 workers is also in jeopardy.
NBL spokesperson Surihe Gaomas-Guchu says the brewery continually strives to promote safety and overall operational efficiency within the business.
“In view of this, NBL took a decision at the end of 2023 to streamline the provision of spent grain to local farmers by going out on an open bidding tender for the procurement of this product.
“Namibia Dairies was the successful bidder for this tender and secured the right to procure up to 100% of NBL’s spent grain production for the 2024 calendar year. During droughts, spent grain is a highly sought-after commodity for farmers in and around Windhoek, and NBL has in the past allowed various farmers to buy directly from the brewery.
“This will in effect continue, as NBL and Namibia Dairies have agreed that up to 30% of spent grain acquired by Namibia Dairies will be sold to other farmers,” she says, adding that farmers who want grain exceeding 20 tonnes per delivery are encouraged to contact Namibia Dairies directly.
Gaomas-Guchu says NBL will provide access for farmers with consignments of less than two tonnes to purchase directly from the brewery once a week on a scheduled date and time to be communicated.
Murangi, however, says one of his milk suppliers has failed to access the grain from Namibia Dairies, as they sell only to farmers who deliver milk to them.
“Before the new arrangement is a month old, it is already open to abuse,” he says.
According to Murangi, two of the seven commercial dairy farmers left in the Omaheke region have stopped delivering milk to Namibia Dairies, opting for Travena.
Daniel Mahua, the executive manager of the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union, says if dairy farms are allowed to collapse it would be difficult to resuscitate them.
He says NBL’s decision is impacting the survival of farmers and the country’s food security.
“Farmers need as much help as possible to survive in the face of the drought. The brewery is abandoning its social responsibility to these farmers,” he says.
Mahua says the union will try to persuade NBL to reverse its decision, because it is unethical and not in the interest of all farmers.
Gaomas-Guchu denies that NBL is abandoning its social responsibility.
“Through this arrangement, NBL is still upholding its social responsibility obligation to local farmers and the dairy industry,” she says.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko says the ministry does not have a legal framework dictating who the breweries should sell the grain to.
“This, however, reminds us as a country of the need to grow more feed for our livestock. We grow lucerne in the south, but this falls far short of national demand and is therefore very expensive,” he says.
Namibia’s dairy sector is fighting for survival, with the price-cost squeeze forcing producers to exit the sector.
Since the early 2000s, milk producers in Namibia have declined from 45 to 10, because farmers believe the industry does not receive enough government protection.
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