With the agriculture minister Fidelis Molao recently making it clear that there is no ending the vegetable import ban any time soon, the consoling prospect for the Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) is that local farmers stand to benefit from local procurement, provided they meet the standard set.
During the 2022 HATAB annual conference in Kasane, Moshie Ratsebe, the Director, Investment Promotions, said this is an opportunity to lobby the hospitality sector to support the #PushaBW initiative. The national initiative was launched in December 2018 to encourage Batswana to actively grow the local economy by buying locally made products, using local services, and supporting other local initiatives.
Ratsebe was presenting on The Role of the Tourism Sector in Supporting the #PushaBW Campaign. As more and more local products are bought, he said, demand is created, triggering the need for an increase in local production and resulting in economic growth and employment creation.
The #PushaBW campaign targets three main areas – the consumer, the producer and retailers. “In our day to day conversations, when we say ‘Pusha’ we mean to support, to encourage or to drive forward. So, #PushaBW is asking all in Botswana to support Botswana,” said Ratsebe. “Through #PushaBW the drive is for the producer to improve the quality of products, retailers to stock more local products and for the consumer to consciously choose to buy the local products.”
Ratsebe said BITC is working on transitioning #PushBW into the tourism/hospitality sector, hoping for a lot of buy-in. He believes the hospitality sector has a role to play in boosting the campaign. “We are asking you to support this campaign,” he pleaded.
At the conference there was heated debate over the imposed vegetable import ban, particularity around horticulture products. The ban encompasses tomatoes, carrots, beetroots, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chili peppers and butternuts with effect from January this year. It is to be reviewed every two years, according to the agriculture ministry. “Farmers and the various stakeholders are encouraged to organise themselves and collaborate towards the use of different platforms that enhance the growth of the horticulture sector locally,” the ministry said when the ban was first imposed.
What is interesting is that Ratsebe said retailers have already bought into the idea. While he acknowledged frustration here and there, especially given that for culinary businesses all ingredients have to be available, he said it is less painful than it was at the onset. Some of the successes he highlighted were how Woolworths has gone into joint ventures to capacitate some local companies. A key example is the confectionary section of the business which for sometime was not able to bring in some favourite products like cakes. They are now being produced in Botswana by a local company which also supplies cooking oil.
Ratsebe said the idea of Woolworths is to take some of the local products into the rest of its markets. “This is how we see the hospitality and tourism sector being able to support the local products that are being produced here,” he said. “We are encouraging you to follow suit, help us to take our products to external markets. We ask you to prioritise local procurement. As we have debated, it will not be easy, it does not take an overnight solution.”
A challenge that he is cognisant of is that most of local producers are not at a stage where they are able to meet demand and certain requirements. “Oftentimes when we are working with retailers, it’s basically patience,” Ratsebe said. “There has been a lot of conversation of retailers agreeing on the standards to be followed.” Where there are gaps, he added, retailers are actually participating to assist them to meet requirements, developing supply programmes between retailers and producers which he hopes the hospitality industry can learn from.