Saturday, January 16, 2021

Batswana urged to transform country into hub of commercial horticulture

As the world moves closer to becoming a global free trade area through the elimination of trade barriers, Batswana need to expeditiously gear up and develop a horticultural industry that can compete in the local, regional and international markets. This was said by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Neo Moroko, when officiating at the workshop on the dissemination of the findings of the Horticulture Produce Market study that was conducted by the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA).

Moroka said through collaboration, technology adoption and diffusion, Batswana could transform this country into a horticultural commercial hub. “Countries like Israel have transformed themselves into world class suppliers of horticultural products despite being wholly covered by the desert,” he said, adding that given their level of success and the advent of today’s technology advancement, Batswana should be inspired to adopt a more outward looking attitude and to achieve greater success.

“We, in Government recognize the importance and contribution of the Agricultural sector to our ongoing pursuit of continued economic growth and diversification,” the Minister pointed out. Despite Agriculture’s low level contribution of less than 4 percent to GDP, he said the Government fully recognizes that this sector remains the main provider of livelihoods of the majority of Batswana, especially those who live in rural and remote areas. “We also recognize that every person’s meal comes from the agricultural sector, and this is the reason why my Government continues to invest in the promotion of the Agricultural sector,” he stated.

The minister pointed out that for a developing country such as Botswana, agriculture holds the key to the diversification of the domestic and export product range, the diversification of the economy and the achievement of the overall industrialization. Therefore, he stated, the importance of the relationship between the agricultural sector and the trade industry sector cannot be overemphasized. Citing an example, he pointed out that horticultural products are traded in global markets as both raw commodities and as raw materials or inputs into some of the industrialized countries’ factories for producing agro-based foods.

He appealed to stakeholders to participate in the development of a road map that LEA and the actors in the horticultural sub-sector should follow to gainfully tap the opportunities that the study has identified. He said there is a need for a coordinated approach from the agricultural sector and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, as well as a need to link this sector to the market.
The Minister urged the farmers to be focused. He said they should always specialize in their product so that they could develop distinctive competency. “The world is not waiting for us,” he concluded.

The Chief Executive Officer of LEA, Tebogo Matome, stressed that LEA’s vision is to be the center of excellence for entrepreneurship and sustainable SMME development in Botswana. Their mission, he said, is to promote and facilitate entrepreneurship and SMME development in pursuit of economic diversification. He said they intend to deliver this mandate via promoting business development services in a coordinated and focused manner that will facilitate entrepreneurship and sustainable SMME development.

According to Matome, this study was commissioned and undertaken by LEA’s research division to better appreciate how the sub-sector is structured, and thus identify growth opportunities for SMMES participation. “Vision 2016 requires us to have trebled horticulture production by 2016, and to have made the sector profitable to many entrepreneurs participating in the sub-sector,” he said.

Matome stated that it is LEA’s intension to collaborate with stakeholders in order to achieve the Vision 2016 ideals as well as the drive towards the achievement of the broad national ideal of self-sufficiency in food production.

In her comment, Dr Patricia Makepe, a lecturer at the University of Botswana, pointed out that for too long horticulture has been ignored thus does not have a great voice. She said Batswana should get horticulture to thrive so as to create opportunities for locals hence create employment for Batswana. “The farmers should also group themselves so that they can act collectively and loom the Government as one voice,” she said. “We should be bold in our efforts in order to encourage this sector to be proactive.”

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