Monday, October 26, 2020

NDB seeks to cut food import bill by 5 percent by 2022

The National Development Bank (NDB) seeks to cut the country’s food import bill by 5 percent by 2022.

This notwithstanding expected losses of about P64 million from loans extended to clients who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the P64 million, agriculture losses are expected to amount to P18, 984, 609.

NDB chief executive officer (CEO) Lorato Morapedi says the bank is reviewing its business continuity plan including the bank’s Letsema Strategy 2019-2022. She said Letsema Strategy is aligned to the government transformation and recovery plan.

“We are re-positioning as an AgriBank targeting emerging and commercial farmers timely given the elevated need for improved food security and contribution of agriculture to GDP,” said Morapedi. 

She said the bank is harnessing the use of technology and innovation to promote smart and green farming such as climate-controlled farming and technology driven prefabricated sector specific products as well as the use of renewable energy across the agriculture value chain.

Quizzed on the bank’s strategic goals, Morapedi said the bank aims to reduce the food import bill by 5 percent by 2022. She said the bank targets 90 percent contribution to local production from NDB funded projects annually. She said the aim is push annual local cereal production increase to 65 000 tonnes by 2022 adding that it is also increasing in average yield per hectare from 3 tonnes to 4.5 tonnes by 2022.

“COVID-19 has magnified the food insecurity we currently face with closure of borders. We have launched “Feed The Nation” campaign to catalyse and develop the identified niche sub-sectors. We are currently running the Feed The Nation Horticulture campaign to enable emerging and existing commercial farmers to increase production of horticultural produce,” said Morapedi.

In supporting NDB funded businesses during the pandemic, Morapedi stated that the bank has introduced forbearance measures to cushion the businesses against the adverse effects of Covid-19.

The CEO said the measures include repayment holidays, extension of repayment periods, waivers on penalty interest as well as moratorium period extension.

She said given Botswana’s urgent need to attain food security and reduce the food import bill, the bank repositioning will ensure that focused investments are made into the agricultural sector to foster commercialization of impactful farming activities. 

Morapedi stated that NDB has demonstrated its capacity to meaningfully drive the commercialization of the sector as evidenced by the bank’s contribution to the development of the sector over the past thirty years, particularly for cereal production.

“Our P100m mainly towards the agric sector and supporting sectors contribution towards forbearance measures shows our commitment to ensuring business survival during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Morapedi.

She revealed that the bank has for the past 10 years invested a total of P1.7 Billion in different agricultural sub-sectors made up of: P889 million in arable farming, P730 million in livestock production, P51 million in horticulture, P10 million in poultry and the remaining in other subsectors. 

She said Pandamatenga commercial farms which the bank supports on an annual basis have seen an increase in yield from 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare in the past five years.

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