Botswana Horticulture Farmers have appealed to government to ensure that retailers are forced not to import any of the restricted produce.
This comes as government recently took a long term decision to restrict importation of selected vegetable commodities which include tomatoes, carrots, beetroots, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chilli peppers, butternut, watermelons, sweet peppers, green mealies and fresh herbs with effect from the 1st of January next year and will be reviewed seasonally in 2 year periodic time intervals.
Chairperson of Horticulture, Cooperative, and Marketing Society Boikaego Phole told this Publication that local farmers can only ensure there is always enough produce if a stern decision can be taken to restrict some retailers from importing the restricted produce.
Phole stated that one of the challenging issues they faced as farmers over time is that some retailers were hell bent on sourcing the locally available produce from neighbouring countries.
“This is a good development considering that we have on many occasions convinced government that we have the capacity to meet the local demand,”
“The only way that we can ensure that there is uninterrupted supply of produce is if government can shut down borders on retailers to restrict them from importing these vegetables because we have always been capable,” said Phole.
He further said they are working collectively as farmers to keep close monitoring of different commodities so that retailers do not run short of stock.
“We have come across some reports that some retailers are now planning to set up their own farms, we do not whether this signals lack of trust in local farmers or what, but we will not be dejected,”
“Local farmers have enough experience to ensure that there is enough produce throughout the year, it is only that some of our retailers are obsessed with importing vegetables from South Africa in particular,” added Phole.
Phole has previously stated that there is also a need for a cordial relationship with retailers, adding that one of the issues which affect the supply is the poor relations between the two.
He stated that in response to this, farmers are now setting up tunnels and green houses in order to have tomatoes and peppers throughout the year without interruption.
“One of the challenges was that a lot of money was lost through importation of horticulture produce which retailers sourced from South Africa but I am happy now to say farmers have joined hands to set up tunnels and green houses to address that,”
“You will recall that during winter season, retailers source most of their produce from South Africa because locally, we are unable to have them, so that will now be a thing of the past and it will reduce the country’s import bill,” said Phole.
Government has been trying to come up with various measures to curb the country’s rising import bill.
Recently statistics Botswana indicated that the country’s food import bill rose to P823.8 million in May this year.
The data also showed that this represents an increase of 11 percent compared to the P752 million spent on food in the period of January 2021.