Dear Mr Steinmann,
Reference is made to the weekly cartoon in the current Namibia Economist publication dated 26 February 2016 to 03 March 2016 which alleges that “the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency, supposed to manage fresh produce hubs to assist rural farmers, is now in direct competition with the farmers”, and continues to add “you say tomato, I say let’s import from SA”, “another rotten government initiative”.
AMTA wishes to state categorically that the allegations are not true at all. For the record, the facts are as follows:
1. AMTA has never imported even one kilogram of fresh produce from South Africa or any other country. AMTA facilitates the trading and marketing of fresh produce. Since commencement of activities (about 2 years ago), a total of 2973MT of fresh produce valued at approximately N$24million was marked and traded through the National Fresh Produce Business Hubs. The traded volumes were mainly sourced from Namibian farmers in the Green Schemes, commercial and communal farms. Before AMTA was in place, these farmers had no market access. This data is verifiable from our Windhoek headquarters, and at the two Fresh Produce Business Hubs in Rundu and Ongwediva.
2. AMTA mandate also includes implementation of government regulations to ensure local traders buy fresh produce and other agronomic products from local farmers before being allowed to import what is not locally available. At the moment, AMTA is controlling import permits and all borders to ensure that all importers buy 44% locally before being allowed to import any fresh produce. These border controls and verifications did not exist before AMTA started operations. In the last 12 months of AMTA implementing these measures, the traders have bought fresh produce of 35202 MT in 2015 compared to the 28242 MT bought in 2014 which is an increase of 24% from the previous year. This is an amount they would have imported if the controls were not in place.
In light of these facts, it is clear that AMTA is indeed promoting local fresh produce farmers to access local markets, a facilitation that was not in place before the existence of AMTA. The allegations in the Namibia Economist cartoon are therefore untrue, malicious and apparently aimed at tarnishing the image of a noble Government initiative, which seeks to uplift livelihoods of our farmers, particularly in communal areas.
AMTA would have expected that the Namibia Economist, being a respected publication, would at least verify information about AMTA operations, as our offices, telephones and websites are open at all times to the public, before publishing such malicious allegations in such a prominent place as in the cartoon.
Considering the damage the allegations are continuing to do, in line with responsible journalism ethics, AMTA hereby requires that the Namibia Economist to a) withdraw the cartoon from its online publication with immediate effect and b) publish a correction and apology on the matter in a prominent manner in the immediate next publication within the next edition.
In the event The Namibia Economist is unable or unwilling to withdraw these allegations, AMTA will take all measures within the Law to protect its reputation on this matter.
We remain open and available at all times should the Namibia Economist wish to verify these or any relevant facts.
Mr Lungameni Lucas
We apologise – Editor