The Northern Regions Electricity Distribution (NoRED) company disconnected power supplies to five green schemes in the Kavango and Zambezi regions on Monday.
Agribusdev managing director Petrus Uugwanga, who confirmed the power disconnections yesterday, said they had earlier requested a N$24 million bailout from the government. The Namibian could not establish how much the green schemes owe the power distributor.
Uugwanga said although they had submitted a once-off bailout proposal to the ministry of agriculture early this year, the ministry has not responded on the matter.
He said if the requested bailout is approved, it would cater for four green schemes which they will be managing after the ministry’s directive for Agribusdev to choose projects they can manage.
According to him, the money would cover the inputs for the projects, and for 30 small-scale farmers who graduated recently.
The graduates underwent the agriculture ministry’s programme under which small-scale farmers are trained and placed at green schemes to begin production.
“We are hoping that the necessary approval will be granted soon to have a chance to plant the winter crops. We cannot afford to lose this season,” Uugwanga stated.
“A day that passes without irrigating crops in a situation when there is no rain is just another addition to the risk exposure,” he added.
He also indicated that for the current season, they planned to harvest a minimum of eight tonnes per hectare from the Kavango regions’ green schemes.
“They are busy assessing how much could be lost if the electricity issue is prolonged since the crops depend on water pumps that run on electricity,” Uugwanga said.
A well-placed source also revealed that some portions of the projects which do not have electricity have just planted seedlings that will not stay longer without water.
The Namibian reported earlier this week that the country faces a white maize deficit of more than 70 000 tonnes in 2019, and the country would keep the border open for imports.
Uugwanga blamed the outbreak of army worm during the planting season of 2016 to 2018, which wiped out almost their entire investment.
“These issues were never there until the time that we were wiped out by the worms. The army worms paralysed our whole operations, and we never recovered since we did not receive full funding to recapitalise our operations,” he stated.
They only need a once-off capital injection to get back on their feet, as most of their projects were on the edge of sustaining themselves, Uugwanga said.
He also explained that there has been no new development on board members’ appointments since their term ended last year, and they are eagerly waiting for their line ministries (public enterprises and agriculture) to appoint a new board.
Additionally, the financially crippled green schemes have been rocked by late salary payments since February as the ministry of agriculture contemplates their short and long-term bailout plan.
Documents seen by The Namibian reveal that since February, the workers have been receiving communication from their managing director on the late processing of their salaries.
A memo seen by The Namibian dated 23 April 2019 was sent to commercial banks, requesting them to assist the Agribusdev employees who could not meet their obligations, until their salaries were processed.
However, the memo did not provide reasons for the delay, but it gave the assurance that the salaries were to be processed before 30 April 2019. The wages were then paid on 1 May 2019.
The April memo was the third the agency issued to the commercial banks notifying them of salary delays. The first one was on 22 February, and the second on 20 March 2019. The source also revealed that the hope of them getting paid next month is slim because the agency is currently broke.
When The Namibian contacted agriculture executive director Percy Misika last week, he could not say when the ministry would act on Agribusdev’s plight.
“That is still a work in progress. We cannot divulge much right now. We had a meeting with them, and we are working on it,” he added.
Misika said due to several government structures which need to approve decisions, he could not start announcing things until that approval process was exhausted.
In early April this year, Agribusdev reportedly requested more than N$1 billion from the government to operate the 11 green schemes efficiently over five years, but it only managed to get N$90 million.
The financially crippled parastatal is inviting the private sector to lease most of its green schemes.