Saturday, November 26, 2022

Vegetables scarcity: Horticulture council blame Gov’t

Botswana Horticulture Council has blamed government over the ongoing shortage of vegetable produce in the country.

This comes after a series of concerns raised by consumers that some vegetable produce have ran out in retail shops while in some instances this has sky rocketed prices.

The Council Public Relations Officer Solomon Tshenyo told this publication that government failed to engage stakeholders in the lead up to import restrictions adding that this has now worsened the situation.

Tshenyo highlighted that local farmers are not empowered compared to other farmers in the continent arguing that this has exposed the country’s horticulture sector challenges.

“We were not consulted when government took a decision to restrict vegetable produce because we felt that needed some time to be empowered,” said Tshenyo.

He added that although they commend the decision to seek to empower local farmers there are a series of issues that should have been attended to before imposing the restrictions.

“When you take countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, their government has injected finances into the sector so that farmers are empowered but in our case a decision was taken abruptly,”

“But we cannot cry for far too long because a decision has already been taken, we are using the little resources at our disposal to produce what we can,” added Tshenyo.

He stated that local farmers are still faced with shortage of land while some do not have the means to drill boreholes.

He said they are hoping to meet national demand before the end of winter season this year as engagements with other local farmers are ongoing to ensure that the current situation is not prolonged.

“Local farmers are on their own because even when we have the produce, retailers buy at their own prices without considering the amount of money injected into the investment,”

“We have previously requested government to help us with certain markets in Lobatse and Francistown but that has not been answered,” stated Tshenyo.

He also said they have previously proposed to government to set up a large farm with required resources where cooperatives can work together in order to ensure that the country does not run out of horticulture produce.

Prior to the import ban introduced by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security on January 1, 2022, three crops in particular, being potatoes, tomatoes and onions, accounted for 53% of the horticultural import bill.

Currently, local production of potatoes accounts for 49% of national demand, while tomatoes account for 44% of national demand and onions 49%.

Consumers have complained of shortages of the three vegetables and others since the ban came into effect, with experts saying the restrictions had exposed the supply chain weaknesses between local producers and the major retailers.

Between January and October last year, the import bill for the 16 crops currently restricted from importation stood at P201 million. In introducing the import restrictions, government said the idea was to foster food self-sufficiency, agriculture value chain development and increase citizen empowerment.

Meanwhile, recently local retailers appealed to government to review an Act which imposed restrictions on horticultural imports in 2019.

Last year, statistics Botswana indicated that the country’s food import bill rose to P823.8 million in May something which tempted government to further tighten import restrictions.

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.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper