Despite a government ban on the importation of some vegetables, local producers say they are still unable to meet the demand.
Botswana extended and expanded restrictions on imports of some fresh produce as it tries to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill.
The ban on imports of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other produce – which has angered farmers in neighbouring South Africa – would now run until the end of 2025, the agriculture ministry said at the time.
Farmers United board member, Moses Moloi outlined major challenges that local farmers face hampering their ability to compete. Top among the list, Moloi said local farmers lack access to funding and lack proper cropping plan.
“We don’t know what we are producing and why we are producing it,” Moloi told investors and the business community during the FNB Botswana budget review seminar on Tuesday this week.
Extreme temperature and flooding are also some of the major challenges, said Moloi.
“We have post-harvest losses due to flooding and demand is not met because of seasonality.”
Winters are too cold for some of the crops while summers are too hot for others. Most local farmers do not have the capital and the required infrastructure to protect their crops from extreme weather conditions occasioned by climate change.
“From tomatoes right down to fresh herbs, there is nowhere we meet the demand as local producers,” said Moloi.
Farmers hope to build partnerships to be able to meet demand. The partnership will be between farmers, suppliers, customers, financiers, and other key stakeholders to create a sustainable value chain, said Moloi.
Without collaboration, Moloi local producers have little buffer against losses.
“One of our biggest challenges is the consolidation of cropping plans,” he said.
“Our farmers are spread across the country, however, our biggest challenge is ensuring that we understand the market and the needs of the market.”
Moloi believes the horticultural industry has many dynamics, not just capacity building for the farmers, but for everyone to play a role in the value chain.
He stated that since the ban on the importation of certain produce, the price of a fertilizer bag has gone up by almost 300 percent.
“There is a niche in packaging, processing, and preservation,” said Moloi.
“We have seen some policies being set up, but we need more than that.”
South Africa supplied about 80 percent of the country’s food before a two-year ban was initially implemented in January 2022. In a State of the Nation address last month, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the import ban had slashed the country’s fresh-produce import bill by 71 percent. He said he was protecting nascent industries, but South African farmers have said the ban violates the Southern Africa Customs Union agreement.
Moloi said they would like to see the implementation of policies that protect local farmers, noting that big retail stores are also buying land and mass producing.
“We need to start thinking how policy shift encourages competition,” he advised.
However, Moloi said there seems to be an improvement as the government has increased the proposed budget allocation to agriculture development.
During the budget speech, Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, proposed a development budget of P2.2 billion in the 2024/2025 financial year to drive agriculture development initiatives geared towards food security and self-sufficiency.
Serame said government will prioritise supporting infrastructure, including access roads to production centres to transform the sector.
“We would like this to be a proper development budget where we see a turnaround,” said Moloi.
“We also see the private sector reforms and value chain development being set at P2.1 billion, we need to see that also taking place.”