The Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) says it is expecting a low grain supply from farmers during this year’s harvest season.
BAMB Acting Chief Executive Officer Lameck Nthekela told Sunday Standard this week that the low supply forecast is supported by the poor rainfall.
Nthekela said that although the strategic grains required for both maize and sorghum is 30 000 metric tons while for pulse is 10 000 metric tons, adding that minimum requirement is that sorghum should be at least at 10 000 tons, 5 000 tons for maize and 2 000 tons for pulses.
He stated that there is a shortfall across adding that currently sorghum supply stands at 9 200 metric tons, maize at 6 508 metric tons while pulse is at 4 286 metric tons.
“It is a concern to everybody that indeed the grains are not in quantities we would otherwise wanted because of the factors beyond our control. Rainfall was quite low last year and this triggered a series of questions on whether we will achieve our harvest target,” said Nthekela.
He further said even though the situation is not very much dire, their only concern still remains poor rainfall.
“We are currently having internal discussions as government to see whether the old grains which had long been stored can be used to add to the current harvest because normally government put some grains in store for situations like this,”
“We have also delegated some of our employees to try and identify places where we could source grains and I want to assure the country that we will not run dry,” said Nthekela.
He highlighted that besides poor rainfall as one of the contributing factor to a weak harvest, they have realized that some farmers have dumped their areas of specialty to venture into a different crop ploughing.
“We have discussed some of this issues and we are thinking of dividing farmers across the country to ensure that certain areas focus in one crop production but our main challenge has always been poor rainfall,”
“Sometimes when there is rain, all it does is to cause damage to our crop production but I want to believe that with the level of education we want to impact in our farmers, we want to believe that we will achieve our target,” added Nthekela.
He also said even though they have running contracts with farmers, they cannot apportion them the blame for failing to produce the agreed quantities due to a myriad of reasons that include poor rains.
According to the farmers, the cost of production for sorghum has increased by almost 40 percent this year. On the other hand, BAMB has only increased its purchasing prices for the grain by a mere 15 percent.
Pandamatenga Farmers Association Chairperson, Ryan Neal indicated that due to low BAMB’ buying prices which do not match cost of production, sorghum farming is no longer profitable. Neal indicated that in 2021 cost of production for sorghum increased by around 38 percent.
Early 2021, BAMB registered unsustainable losses of P40.7 million compared to a net profit of p70.8 million in 2018/2019.
On the other hand, recently during the state of the nation address, President Mokgweetsi Masisi stated that BAMB and the Zimbabwe Grain Marketing Board have engaged in discussions for cooperating in the management of strategic grain reserves and the possibility of Botswana importing grains from Zimbabwe.