Vegetable traders have pinned the vegetable price hike on government’s decision to ban the importation of selected vegetables for two years. Speaking to The Telegraph, Dipilara Cross Border Association public relations officer, Omphile Godirwang said the reason for the hike in vegetable prices is that they are bought at an already high cost from farms. She informed that due to the high demand yet low supply of vegetables since the inception of the ban in January this year, local farmers are taking advantage and hiking their prices which consequently results in these traders selling them at higher prices in order to make a profit.
She also said; “farmers are taking advantage of the fact that there’s no price control when it comes to the sale of these vegetables and so they hike them knowing very well that we have no other option but to purchase from them since there are very few horticulture farms in the country.”
Godirwang said that government’s sudden decision to impose the ban has severely affected traders nationwide since they rely on the sales of these vegetables to make a living and to feed their families.
She explained that since there are few farms, they travel long distances to places such as Ghanzi to get vegetables and when they get there, they have to wait for up to two weeks.
She said: “Recently, some traders went to Ghanzi and queued for up to two weeks in search of potatoes and they ran out while they waited, so they went to Dikgathong since they had heard that there were potatoes there. In Dikgathong they had to wait another week to get these potatoes. All these costs and time spent searching for vegetables is bad for business.”
Furthermore, she opined that government seems to be in denial of the fact that local farms’ produce is not enough to meet demand.
“The association has reached out to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security several times to express their grievances, however nothing has come out of it,” said Godirwang.
She said the issue with local farms is that their harvest is seasonal based on the fact that most of them are reliant on seasonal rainfall and have not incorporated irrigation systems into their farming.
She said local farms have not reached the level of being able to supply locals fully.
Godirwang said as an association, their recommendation is that the Ministry of Agriculture must revert to the drawing board and re-evaluate their decision to close up borders for two years. She said that they are in agreement that Botswana needs to be self-sufficient. However, she says they believe the decision was rushed without proper evaluation and consideration of whether or not the country in this given time will be able to do so.
Changu Pusoetsile, secretary general of Tabepo Association in Francistown shares the same sentiments that government’s decision was rushed. She advised that government must consider lifting the ban with some restrictions that allow traders to outsource vegetables partially in order to meet the country’s demands. She said while doing this, government should then work towards empowering local farmers with skills and resources needed in order to fully satisfy Batswana’s demands.