The Botswana Horticulture Market, which was established late last year, is quickly setting its mark in the country’s horticulture business as more local horticultural farmers are selling their products through it and not on the streets as used to be the case in the past.
The Chief Executive Officer, Abakeng Koswane, is happy that the investment the government had made had not gone to waste and is achieving the desired results of getting more Batswana into horticulture business.
“We are happy that the market is quickly achieving its ambition of getting Batswana into the horticulture business,” Koswane told Sunday Standard.
He envisions the move going a long way into achieving the government’s ambition of encouraging them to change from the tradition of growing for consumption only.
More encouraging, he said, is that some young people are also going into the business of horticulture, which he says is a clear sign that the market and horticulture in general has a bright future.
“We are encouraged by the number of young farmers that is coming up. This is a clear sign that horticulture has a future,” he said.
Besides having provided the funds for the establishment of the market, he said that the government also helps horticultural farmers by making sure that every time the local farmers have produced enough products, imports of vegetables is stopped in order to encourage the buying of local products.
For example, he says that, currently, the import of tomatoes and butter nuts has been stopped as there are enough locally produced ones.
Asked if this does not hinder free trade with neighbouring countries, Koswane says that the Southern African Customs Union allows that a member country can stop importation of a certain product from foreign competition in order to nature local production.
Asked who their main supplier was, Koswane said that Talana Farms, which is a product of the Botswana Development Corporation and private farmers, are their main supplier of products like potatoes and tomatoes but that they are also getting their supplies from some Chobe farms as well as some small and medium farmers in and around Gaborone .
Recently he said that they had also started stocking Chinese vegetables in order to cater for the growing Chinese population in the country.
The Chinese vegetables, he said, are grown locally by some Chinese farmers. Those who buy their products include some local chain stores, hotels and individuals.
He said that in the near future, they are going to start tendering to supply government institutions, such as schools and hospitals. His advice to horticulture farmers is that they should concentrate on growing vegetables and leave the business of selling to them.
”Farmers should concentrate on the business of growing crops and let us market their products on their behalf,” he said.
Koswane says that he hopes the government will continue supporting the growth of horticulture in the country and that another way of doing that will be to make sure that there is provision of land for horticulture purposes around dams that are being constructed around the country.