Mahangu Biscuit Venture Seems to Be Crumbling

The business fortunes of mahangu biscuit makers GampB Mahangu Enterprises which made headlines in 2012 appear not to have taken off.

Company co-owner Grete Izaks identified retailers’ low uptake of the local product as the main cause.

“I am still in business but it is slow. People would approach me interested in the mahangu cookies, but they never come back to me. At the moment, I am hanging in the air because I am not sure if the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Defence that have shown interest in my making cookies for schools and soldiers will ever come back to me,” Izaks told New Era yesterday.

GampB Mahangu Enterprises launched its mahangu biscuit in 2012, with the blessing of the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, who introduced various biscuits to the market.

Although business is slow, Izaks said she is determined to sell and market her products.

She could not reveal the financial losses incurred due to retailers’ low uptake of her product.

With the Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair around the corner, Izaks said she has baked 400 packages of mahangu biscuits to sell at the fair.

“I plan to bake more cookies in September for the Windhoek Industrial and Agricultural Show,” she noted.

Even though a number of retailers are stocking the products, and many other retailers have expressed interest to place orders for the stock, she said the volumes are still to pick up.

Two of the major retailers Izaks supplies are Fruit n Veg and Pick n Pay.

The mahangu biscuit comes in four varieties of mahangu oatmeal and plain mahangu cookies, with choc chips or with nuts. The most preferred are the mahangu cookie and mahangu oatmeal.

Four years ago the agriculture ministry initiated a programme to add value to mahangu as part of the initiatives supporting the development of new technologies and products that address household food security and eradicate poverty.

GampB Mahangu Enterprises as well as the Namibian Agronomic Board were brought on board through the initiative.

The company employs five people at its production and packaging plant in Rehoboth.

Grete Izaks and Brigitte van Wyk own the company.

Traditionally mahangu (pearl millet) is usually made into a porridge called “oshifima” or fermented to make a drink called “oshikundu.”

After doing research, the Rehoboth pair showed that mahangu flour can be used to make delicious cookies. The two partners started producing the biscuits on a part-time basis in their kitchens.

The company gets its raw supplies from Namib Mills in Windhoek.

So far, they have sold approximately over 4 000 packs of cookies excluding those sent for research to South Africa. The government supplied some equipment on a two-year loan basis. The pair has injected close to N$60 000 into the project.

Traditionally mahangu grain is pounded with a piece of wood (pestle) in a ‘pounding area’.

The floor of the pounding area is covered with a concrete-like coating made from the material of termite mounds. As a result, some sand and grit get into the pounded mahangu, so oshifima is usually swallowed without chewing. After pounding, winnowing removes the chaff.

Source : New Era