Staff Writer

Local fertilizer producers have rubbished claims by the Agricultural Business Development Agency (AgriBusDev) Managing Director, Petrus Uugwanga that the country did not have local fertilizer producers and thus had no option but to award a multimillion-dollar fertilizer supply tender to South African company, Kynoch.

One company that claims to be able to provide these products is Greenfield Organic Fertilizers (GOF). Based in Okahandja, this product provider has been in operation for years.

According to the company’s owner, the business has the capacity to produce over 12 tons of organic fertilizer a day. This capacity makes them more than able to meet the supply requirements of AgriBusDev.

“The AgriBusDev is aware of us, even the Managing Director, some of its board members and Ministry of Agriculture officials. I am an Agronomist by profession and the company was created with the aim of supplying the right fertilizer that is suitable for Namibia. So, it will be dishonest of them to make those claims,” Greenfield owner, Johan le Riche told the Windhoek Observer.

“The continued importation of such inputs is killing Namibia’s manufacturing industry and benefiting South African companies while we have the capacity locally.”

Riche accused AgriBusDev of being dishonest; citing the lack of transparency in its operations, a factor which he said was contributing to its poor performance.

“It’s all just a scam. Imagine, this the same company that promised government that with N$33 million they could produce fodder for farmers, only to spend that on salaries,” he said.

There are concerns that the awarding process of the tender to Kynoch was not transparent amid conflict of interest claims. The alleged conflict arose over speculation that Riaan Fokkens, a former consultant of AgriBusDev for close to two years and the Kynoch country agent could have colluded to manipulate the tender requirements to exclude local bidders.

Uugwanga was at pains to justify why the company had resolved to award the tender to the South African company, arguing that Kynoch was the only company that had offered staggered payment terms. Because AgriBusDev is struggling to meet its financial obligations, relevant payment arrangements with all vendors are necessary.

“Kynoch was the only company that offered us payment terms and their bid allowed us to save money by cutting out the middleman. Fokkens was employed by AgriBusDev but his contract came to an end. He declared his interest [in Kynoch] when we employed him,” he said.

Quizzed on his claims about the lack of local suppliers, he maintained the country did not have local suppliers and professed ignorance about the fact that Otjiwarongo-based Growmax, who had tendered for the bid, has been producing fertilizer since late last year.

“We know about them and we even met their directors, but we didn’t know they had started producing [fertilizers],” he said.

Uugwanga was quick to say the company had only awarded Kynoch a tender to supply fertilizer worth N$4.5 million despite the company’s bid supplementary evaluation report showing a N$19.7 million award.

“It is recommended that the managing Director approves the supply of fertilizer from Kynoch at a cost of N$19,718,758.85 including transport, import vat and delivery to the project,” the document read.

In another matter, the AgriBusDev has been threatened with legal action over its failure to pay its suppliers, the latest being OPE Investments, which was awarded a contract to transport fodder but was not paid for its services.

OPE Investments, through its lawyers Mbaeva & Associates, has written to the government agency demanding payment of N$643,936 for services provided by the client but remain unpaid.

“Kindly take notice that failure to oblige will leave us with no option but to approach the Magistrate Court of Namibia for an appropriate relief and for which legal costs that arise you shall be liable for,” the letter from the OPE Investments lawyers read.

According OPE Investments Director, Fanuel Murangi, AgriBusDev has gone as far as disputing the terms of its agreement with company.

“I have had a meeting with the company Managing Director over this and have approached various offices to no avail and have no choice but to take the legal route,” he said.