As a research firm which focuses on market research, polls, surveys, among others, we hope to bring insights to you through today’s article on the quantum of food imports into the country. Botswana’s total imports were valued at P 9, 872, 555, 567.20 (over P9 billion) according to a Statistics Botswana report titled Botswana Food Imports March 2022. Of this amount, food imports contributed P 1, 173, 829, 205 (over P1 billion) translating to 11.9 percent of the total import bill. Cereals which are noted to be “grain sorghum other than seed and maize (corn)” account for 26.8 percent of food imports.
The hefty food import bill simply means that the country relies on its neighbours, South Africa in particular, for food imports. Looked at from an entrepreneurial angle, this worrisome food import bill also shows that there are immense opportunities for agricultural enterprises to capitalise by investing into such a sector which is dominated by imports. The writing is on the wall and that’s how research data and firms like us intend to add value to businesses by providing them with information which can unlock untapped business potential.
The South Africa – Botswana Business Round Table which was held on 3 August 2022 celebrated the healthy bilateral and trade relations between Botswana and South Africa but also revealed Botswana’s heavy reliance on its mentioned neighbour for among other imports, food. That technically means that the country is exposed to any trade supply shocks which may affect South Africa or other food exporters. For example, if South Africa is hit by drought, floods or strikes, the food imports into Botswana may be stalled and the country’s supplies may dwindle. Further, the mentioned Statistics Botswana reports show that Botswana has a trade deficit with its transactions with South Africa, which simply means that the country uses more foreign currency to import goods than it generates its exports. A healthy and ideal situation is where a country produces enough food for its people so as to avoid shortages which may be caused by exogenous factors such as droughts as stated above.
Botswana was among the 193 United Nations Member States that endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal number 2 of the SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
The Government of Botswana, in an attempt to deal with the impending food crisis in the country, has initiated capacitation schemes and opportunities for local farmers. This is done through loan appraising from CEDA, the likes of NAMPAAD available to commercial farmers to upgrade technologies and encourage more involvement of private sector & civil society into farming and ISPAAD programs. However, the results of these initiatives and the benefit of the efforts being made to be a self-sufficient country, are yet to be seen.
Bill must fall
Ideally, the food imports must progressively fall until a time when the country is able to produce the majority of the food it requires. However, that takes the collective efforts of both the government and the private sector. Whilst government has good policies meant at propping agriculture, the production can only be driven by the private sector. Needless to say, if the country is able to meet local demand with local produce that will positively help with the reduction of the large import bill, enlarge possibilities for local exports, increase employment opportunities, and enhance forex inflows, which would consequently boost GDP growth for the economy. Lastly, as if we haven’t stated that fact, the hefty food import bill is a clear testimony of the enormous business potential that exists in agriculture which local entrepreneurs may capitalise on by producing the heavily imported cereals and directly feed into import substitution.
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