Wednesday, August 5, 2020

National grain reserve below par

As a major player in ensuring food security for the nation, Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board is expected to diligently manage the government Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) at the required level of 70,000 metric tonnes (Mt) comprising of 30,000 Mt of Sorghum, 30,000 Mt of Maize and 10,000 Mt of beans.

As things stand, the SGR account is almost half empty if not only carrying sorghum in it. According to Minister of Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia’s revelation last week, “the current status of the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) is 30 000 tonnes of sorghum against a target of 30 000 tonnes; 2 000 tonnes of pulses against a target of 10 000 tonnes. There is currently no maize in the SGR, but the target reserve is 30 000 tonnes.”

Botswana which imports food mostly from neighboring South Africa to augment its relatively low local production, has grain stock levels that can only sustain the country up to the start of the new harvest in July 2018.

This follows another revelation in early March this year to Parliament by the Minister that; a total of only 42,800 hectares were planted in the 2017/18 season to the end of February compared with 167,562 hectares during the 2016/17 season.

This means that Botswana is facing a food deficit after a drought slashed the acreage of planted crops by 75 percent in the just ended ploughing season. Botswana which prides itself mostly with its precious stones, Diamonds, has over the last two years suffered a severe El Nino-induced drought.

The 2016/17 season plantings produced 193,372 tonnes of grain, which constituted to 60 percent of the annual national demand of 320,000 tonnes. The deficit was met by imports, and this does not spare Botswana to significantly import more of grains again this year.

According to Ralotsia’s observations early last month Botswana was likely to experience a severe food deficit as in some parts of the country crops planted are already showing signs of wilting. However, this has hit much of the Southern Africa region including Botswana’s main food supplier, South Africa who is the top producer of the staple grain.

According to BAMB’s annual report of 2015/2016 which is currently the latest, the 2015/16 harvesting season, a total of 39,657 tonnes of grains where purchased.

The grains captured 62 percent of BAMB’s revenue during the reporting period. Sorghum is still the Boards’ major contributor to revenue. The pulses revenue has captured 17 percent of the total sales revenue, this is attributed to the government of Botswana feeding programmes for schools and clinics.

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Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.