Private sector mouthpiece, Business Botswana has indicated its support for the ongoing restriction of imported horticulture produce adding that it is paying off and therefore should be made permanent.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Business Botswana Norman Moleele says early indications of an outcry from South African farmers relating to a low uptake of their produce signals that Batswana farmers have heeded the call to make the country self-sufficient.
“By the look of things, it seems that local farmers are doing quite good and also based on the fact that South African farmers have started complaining it means that they have started feeling the pinch”
“This initiative was meant to encourage farmers and if they do not deliver then surely consumers will come complaining about shortage of horticulture produce,” he said.
Moleele added that there is still an opportunity for locals to venture into farming.
“There is enough support from retailers and I must say that what they are looking for is consistent supply, good quality of the product and reasonable pricing,”
“We continuously engage as stakeholders to see how best we can take advantage of this initiative because it is there for the taking, ” said Moleele.
Government has also recently indicated that local farmers have managed to make improved sales after the Ministry of Agriculture imposed restrictions on the import of several horticultural crops. The list of crops, which comprises of lettuce, onions, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage, came into effect on the 11th of September and will be in effect until local supply runs out.
Government stated that this is meant to empower local farmers who will benefit from serving the entire Botswana market on their own. The ministry further adds that during winter as temperatures are low, the ground is cool, which helps local farmers to have a better harvest of horticultural crops. Batswana farmers are said to be able to feed Botswana until late November and early December.
According to the ministry, Botswana has an annual demand of 900 metric tones of all the restricted crops, and currently there is 406 Ha available. However, the Ministry of Agriculture also said potatoes are not benefiting from the restrictions as a good supply of the crops continues to pour into Botswana. When the ministry imposes restrictions, prices drop significantly in the South African market, with a bag of potatoes going as low as 10 South African Rands. It has emerged that with the help of trucks in transit, large quantities of potato end up in Botswana, stifling efforts by the ministry to help supply local produce.
The local supply of potatoes currently stands at 300 ha, which according to the ministry should be considerably low at this time of year, considering that by November local supply is absorbed. Efforts by the ministry now look set to escalate charges so that traffickers of restricted crops learn from a single mistake.