Meat products, mainly beef, account for 70 percent of all agricultural exports, followed by hides and skins (8 percent). On the import side, the main imports are cereals, beverages, sugars, fruit and vegetables, vegetable oils and dairy products.
Whilst cereals have topped the import list (in terms of value) almost consistently over a long time within the monthly reviews, there have been fluctuations when it comes to sugars, beverages and fruit and vegetables. Though in Botswana imports of sugar fluctuated substantially in recent years, they tended to increase since the 1960s and have remained a top import.
August 2021 Statistics on food imports show that Botswana imports relatively a lot of sugar. From a total food import bill of P813 million, sugar and sugar confectioneries account for over P90 million, which is 11.1 percent of the total food imports. Whilst for the August period, the most imported food type was cereal, accounting for 16.3 percent of food imports, sugar was the second highest, overtaking beverages and preparations of cereals that had dominated in previous statistics.
The same data shows that preparations of cereals, flour, starch or milk was third with 9.2 percent, whilst beverages accounted for 8.9 percent. The most imported types of Cereals during this month were “wheat & muslin, other than durum wheat, other than seed”, at 40.8 percent, followed by maize (corn), other than seed at 37.9 percent.
‘’Juices made of any single fruit or vegetable unfermented, not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter” contributed 33.1 percent to “Preparations of vegetables, fruit and nuts or other parts of plants”. This was followed by “potatoes prepared or preserved, frozen”; at 12.3 percent.
According to the data, most of the imported sugar comes in raw form, accounting for a combined 73 percent of the imported sugar (Including raw sugar, which accounts for 2 percent). Sugar confectionary accounts for a combined 22 percent, which is relatively lower than that of raw sugar imports. This reflection is a good sign within the sugar industry that it is not only importing finished products, but also value adding to its imports and in the process creating jobs and supporting related local players.
Whilst it is a noble idea to put emphasis on ensuring import substitution on cereals as the main food import, there is plenty of room for the reduction of food import bill through sugar and sugar products as well, especially the finished products. It is important to note how sweets are a noticeable import, accounting for a combined 2.5 percent. It means that there could be room for local production of the same as an import substitution strategy.
These figures should therefore enable our policy makers and strategists to point to areas that we can put focus as a nation and provide necessary value addition while at the same time saving on the scarce foreign currency resources. More investments should therefore be made in these particular areas as they would not only promote the downstream industries but are key in job creation and enhancing food security.
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