SELEBI-PHIKWE: It is two years since the horticultural processing plant in Selebi-Phikwe, National Agro Processing Plant (NAPRO) started production, but not a single government institution has procured from it. NAPRO is now appealing to government to buy its processed products.
As a result of lack of government support, the plant is unable to reach its original objective of empowering horticultural farmers by providing markets for their produce.
The plant therefore cannot produce more because the little market available to it limits it.
Since their products hit the market in September 2016, the plant’s customers are currently a few retailers and individuals. There has not been any significant growth since then yet there are expenses incurred in running the plant.
The plant is one of the projects expected to significantly contribute towards improving Selebi-Phikwe’s local economy and creating employment.
Office of the President funded NAPRO for P10.9 million through the Poverty Eradication Fund to start-up while National Food Research Technology (NAFTEC) financed its operational costs.
The NAPRO chief executive officer, Ramogoma Kaisara has appealed to government in an interview to procure from NAPRO and assist the plant to run effectively and be able to help more farmers curb post-harvest losses.
He explained that if their processed products cannot be bought at a satisfactory rate, then farmers would not benefit much from the plant.
“We have visited a lot of government departments and institutions, made presentations but none of them have come forward. We know that government institutions use products like purées that we produce here, hence they have to procure from us,” he said.
He explained that the more the plant sells the more it can be able to buy from farmers and emphasised that farmers must be assisted with the market otherwise people would lose interest in using facilities such as NAPRO. Kaisara said NAPRO is government-owned, therefore government must support and sustain it by ensuring that the plant supplies government institutions.
“Government must provide subsidy by enforcing direct buying from NAPRO,” he said.
He said NAPRO also continues to experience some resistance from the market because it is difficult to change customers’ mindsets to the new products. Kaisara also noted that they have little resources to advertise the products fully.
Another challenge in luring customers is that some retailers have long decision-making processes and in some cases decisions are made outside the country. He noted that their food related quality management system keeps them in the market.
There is also inconsistency in raw material supply to the plant from farmers. Currently, there is a shortage of onion, beetroot and carrot supply in the SPEDU region and NAPRO has to source them at an extra cost from other areas.
Kaisara urged farmers to do their best to supply their horticultural products in order to fully benefit from NAPRO.
“Farmers complain that onion has a longer cycle. When we initially did consultations, onion was sufficient but they are demoralised by some inconsistencies. The plant also has not reached its full potential,” he said. He added that the cost of distribution prohibits them from reaching other areas.
NAPRO has also suspended its contract farming initiative because the market they had anticipated did not materialise. He said they want to establish the market first and increase the retailers they are supplying. “Farmers should not despair because NAPRO is growing and will soon reach its full potential and they must strive to cover all the product range that we want so that we do not have to source other products from outside the region,” he said.
Kaisara added that they are continuously expanding their retailing and have reached as far as Jwaneng. Their aim is to reach-out to the whole country once their distribution models are well in place. “We also want food caterers to get their supply from us because we also supply in bulk. All they need to do is to place orders,” he added. Government had intentions to privatise NAPRO, but the exercise is reportedly on hold.