- Import ban said to be bearing fruit as local horticulture production increases
- Legislators call for blanket ban on agricultural products
- Minister says funds to ensure improved capacity of famers are a hindrance
Members of Parliament have appealed the Ministry of Agriculture to consider expanding the current ban import on importation of fruits and vegetables to all agricultural products.
This emerged from discussion of a question raised by the MP for Maun West, Dumelang Saleshando, seeking clarification of some issues around the ban on importation of agricultural produce. MPs argued that a blanket ban on all agricultural products, including cereals and grains, would result in growth of the agricultural sector in Botswana.
Famers in Nhabe
The MP for Ngami, Carter Hikuama, said local grain harvest regularly goes to waste because of lack of a market in Botswana, thanks to imported grain. He asserted that the people of his constituency are capable of feeding the nation, particularly with maize and sorghum. “Does the ministry plan on imposing the ban across all agricultural products? The government is currently failing local farmers by importing products which they have the capacity to produce,” Hikuama said. Adding his voice to the call, the MP for Nata-Gweta, Polson Majaga, said the Ministry of Agriculture should be steadfast in maintaining the import ban on fruits and vegetables.
However, in response the Minister of Agriculture, Molebatsi Molebatsi, said while it was a good idea to ban importation of all agricultural products, finding funds needed to ensure increased production of local famers and improved quality of their crops was proving a hindrance. Saleshando had asked Minister Molebatsi to state the percentage of national production for tomatoes, potatoes, onions and ginger compared to total demand at when the import ban was imposed and the level of increased production since.
Saleshando had also wanted to know the number of potato farmers in Botswana how many of them are indigenous Batswana and measures in place to cushion consumers against shortages and price increases caused by the shortages. In response, Minister Molebatsi said local production of horticultural products has increased substantially since the introduction of the ban. Production of potatoes has grown by 8.45 percent from 74.9 percent pre- restrictions and onions from 55.6 percent to 62.25 percent.
“Tomato production decreased by 6.67 percent, which is not a concern as they are currently off season, while ginger production is at its lowest going from 0.11 percent to 0.03 percent after restrictions as farmers are only now beginning to go into production,” said the minister. Molebatsi admitted that some horticultural products had tripled in prices with tomatoes going from P12-P15 per kg to P18-P22 per kg while onions went from P3-P5 per kg to P10-P18 per kg. Saleshando had also called for a partial ban in view of the alarming increases in prices of horticultural products and in order to achieve a supply and demand equilibrium.