Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Talana Farms roots for protection as it increases output

Talana Farms, the giant horticultural facility in the Tuli Block area, plans to increase its production for 2010 as it also eyes increasing turnover.

Jan Willemse, the Managing Director of the farm, said the idea is to diversify produce range.

“We are currently doing 6 crops and in future, we intend to diversify,” said Willemse.

Talana Farms last year produced 1800 tonnes of vegetables and this year, the idea is to push that to 16 000 tonnes for local consumption and export to South Africa.

About 90 percent of the farm’s produce is sent to the Botswana Horticultural Markets while the rest is sold at its outlets in places like Selebi-Phikwe.

Currently, 380 hectares of the 1800 hectares farm is irrigated and the idea is to expand to meet the growing demand and reduce dependence on imports.

“We need to expand because we have the capability in terms of irrigation and water,” added the Managing Director.

Talana Farms, which owns the piece of land, is 100 percent owned by the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and operated by Botalana Ventures of which the government’s investment arm is a shareholder.

BDC’s exposure on the venture is 33 percent or one third while the rest is held by Willemse and his family.

Last year, the company made P25 million, but the plan is to increase that to P30 million this year as Botswana vegetable quality is starting to be accepted by the market.

The difficulty in the market is that most of the traders are South African and are out there to discredit local producers.

“The issue of quality is more of politics than anything else,” the MD pointed out.

The other difficulty that farmers face in the country is that there are no farming subsidies or infrastructure, which is the case in other competing countries.

Willemse said often at times local farmers are compared to their South African compatriots whose environment is more condusive than the one in Botswana

“Most of the farmers have to incur costs to build infrastructure, like power-lines, while in other countries governments help in doing that.”

He is not in support of subsidies saying it has its problems and roots for protection.
“Protection is better. As they (government) protect the industry, more farmers come to the market and the quality improves,” he said.

Also in a bid to be respected in the market, Talana Farms will in the near future have its own labelling that will differentiate it in the market. Some products are already sealed by the packaging label.

This is part of complying with Bots 9 standards requirement.

Talana Farms has been exporting to the South African market and also looking at others like Namibia.

The farm expects to export more to the SA market because of the frost conditions that has affected yield. Botswana experiences minimal frost.

The farm produces 99 percent of the country’s carrot supplies.

BDC became a partner on Botalana in 2006 after the farm changed hands with different operators.

The farm currently employs 428 employees with 200 of them permanent employees while the number usually jumps to around 800 during the peak season.

A sizeable number of the workers at the farm are from neighbouring Zimbabwe.

“The challenge we have in Botswana is the labour issue. Many locals are not willing to work in the farms,” he said.

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