Part of the obesity problem that Botswana is experiencing is a result of people not eating adequate amounts of fresh produce.
A horticulture value chain analysis action plan that was prepared for the Private Sector Development Programme says that in line with a regional trend, the consumption rate of fresh fruit and vegetable (FF&V) among Batswana households is very low.
“Almost 97 percent of the population does not consume the recommended minimum of five fruits or vegetables per day. On average, one serving of vegetables and 0.3 servings of fruits are consumed daily. These rates are low even compared with other countries in the region. Low FF&V consumption contributes to the population’s increased propensity to obesity and to illnesses such as diabetes,” the plan says.
For businesspeople, the silver lining in this dark cloud is in the form of “significant potential … for increasing sales of FF&V in the market, perhaps reinforced by a coordinated public health campaign.”
However, not just any fruit is good enough to yield the desired health benefits and what is adverse about the Botswana situation is that while there are voluntary national standards on grading of produce, these are generally not adopted. The plan says that retailers do not differentiate FF&V by quality at the point of sale. The result has been competition based mainly on price and few incentives to invest in upgrading production quality. To deal with this situation, the plan recommends the adoption of compulsory quality standards in the horticulture sector which should be able to generate considerable value in the FF&V value chain.
“In addition to significantly improving the perception of Botswana FF&V among local consumers, it will enable price differentiation. Achieving higher price for quality produce will provide incentives for farmers to invest in better farming practices. Overall production volumes and farm viability will increase. Botswana Bureau of Standards has produced voluntary standards for grading FF&V. These are currently not followed. Some retailers and wholesalers implement their own independent quality standards which are agreed bilaterally with producers,” the plan says.
Another aspect is that of price difference between regions. Gaborone is generally cheaper for all horticultural products other than tomatoes, where it is the most expensive and Kanye’s FF&V prices are generally the lowest. Ghanzi and Francistown prices are comparable, although the former is more expensive in some price points.
The obesity problem the plan addresses will be exacerbated by some other factors. In the case of Gaborone, online shopping and the laundromats that are popping up all over the city mean that people are cutting down on the amount of physical activity they would otherwise have to do.