- Disloses he is himself responsible for the ban
- Unveils plans to subsidise farmers and loans for implements
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has made his intention clear that he plans to expand the list of banned vegetable imports and that subsidies for local farmers are being worked out.
Speaking at a rally in his native town of Moshopa recently, Masisi revealed that he was the one responsible for the ban on importation of vegetables from South Africa that led to that country’s agriculture sector accusing Botswana of violating the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) agreement.
“I’ am the one behind the ban,” he said. “I am going to expand the list so that more vegetables will not be imported into the country.” He disclosed that the government is working around the clock to introduce subsidies for local farmers and to secure funds for increased yields and improved quality of fresh produce in Botswana. “Some of the subsidies will be aimed at funding programmes to cushion farmers from harsh climate conditions,” said the President.
“We are also going to introduce a programme whereby farmers will be able to get loans from state owned financial institutions to buy farming implements such as tractors.” He said the programme will be rolled out next year because the government intends to maintain the import ban on fruits and vegetables steadfastly. For that reason, each farmer will soon have his or her own implements as part of government efforts to boost productivity and meet national demand for fresh produce.
As the ban continued last year, Agri SA which represents the voice of South African farmers, called on their country’s agriculture minister, Thoko Didiza, to urgently intervene in what the organization called “unilateral action” taken by Botswana and Namibia, which had introduced a similar ban at the same time as Botswana on New Year’s Day. Until then, Botswana imported the vast majority of its fresh produce, up to 98.2% of them from South Africa.
Botswana is South Africa’s second-largest export destination of fresh produce, accounting for 15.1% of the USD 224.4 million worth of vegetables exported in 2021. Potatoes, onions, and tomatoes are three major vegetable exports from South Africa to Botswana. Agri SA asked the South African government to act to arrest and reverse the situation or to at least implement reciprocal measures and take action to protect local farmers, such as halting payments to these countries from the SACU’s Common Revenue Pool until they reopened their borders to South African fresh produce.
“South Africa has been slow to act in demand that SACU member states comply with the agreement and our accommodating approach to the agreement has been met with harmful bans,” the organisation said in a statement. As it turns out, Botswana had duly notified South African authorities through SACU as well as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation about its intentions before the ban was put into effect.