Namibian court to hear grape grower case over Dutch trade arrangement

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Namibian court to hear grape grower case over Dutch trade arrangement

A group of grape farmers in the Namibian region of Aussenkehr face a court order today demanding they only sell to Dutch importer Cool Fresh International, newspaper The Namibian reported.

The state-owned Agricultural Bank of Namibia has applied to the High Court to force 13 Orange River Irrigation Project (ORIP) farmers to deliver their harvest to Cool Fresh.

If the farmers fail to comply with the order the bank wants the court to authorize it to take possession of the grapes, and if necessary to harvest and store the grapes itself.

In 2009 the Namibian government signed an agreement with subsidiary Cool Fresh Namibia to provide expertise and funds for 20 small-scale ORIP farmers in return for buying their produce.

According to the bank, farmers were leasing four hectare portions of land from the Ministry of Agriculture and had signed documents ceding title rights and interests relating to their grapes and vegetables as security for the loans.

Agriculture minister Andrew Ndishishi, claimed the farmers owe the bank and Cool Fresh International more than NAD$2 million (US$244,113).

If the farmers can offer their land as security or pay back their debts, which includes interest and legal costs, then the bank said it would release the farmers' grapes, The Namibian reported.

Cool Fresh International said it was unable to comment on the issue and refused to respond to media reports that another buyer had offered farmers ten times the price it was currently paying for a box of grapes.

Related stories: Namibian grape season starts amid Dutch buyer controversy

Photo: The Namibian

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