The country’s third largest mineral exporter, Botswana Ash, has made a breakthrough into the international market of the Middle East and India, which it had never dealt with before.
The quest to secure new markets has been an ongoing initiative to match the growth in sales, which had resulted due to the creation of large inventory.
“We are aiming at becoming the supplier of choice in southern Africa and internationally,” said Carol Mabua, the Public Relations Officer at Botash.
In the past year, production saw a significant rise, though not matched by sales. In 2011, Botswana Ash (Botash), producers of soda ash, mined 244, 655 tonnes as compared to 240, 898 the previous year. However, this improved production was, however, not matched by increase in sales, hence the quest to search for new markets.
Botash has been facing a huge challenge in finding new markets for the additional production. The economic slowdown exacerbated the problem as current customers have had to curtail off-take due to low demand for their products.
“Botash’s market focus is on a large scale soda ash and salt consumers locally, regionally and internationally,” said Mabua. However, she stated that Botash is facing challenges of high costs relative to its competitors and high transport (rail) costs to get its product to the customers. The latter increases the delivered cost of product to the customer.
Botswana Ash has been a major contributor to the Botswana economy, despite the challenges faced by the company; it continues to operate within a very competitive market and will continuously strive to realise profit margins.
Mabua said the unfair competition where the competitors sell their product within the southern African market at less than they do in their domestic markets is a major drawback.
This year’s soda ash production target is 280 000 tonnes.
“We are confident to achieve it because year to date forecast is just above budget,” she said.
She added that the aim is to reach the plant nameplate capacity of 300 000 tonnes per annum by 2013.
“This is the optimum production target that will bring production costs to manageable levels and ensure market competitiveness,” she noted.
The Salt production budget is 430 000 tonnes.
The production process involves extracting brine from beneath the pan surface and concentrating it in solar evaporation pans, before processing to produce soda ash (300 000 tonnes per year capacity) and salt (650 000 tonnes capacity).