Agric sector feeling the heat

Kabelo Adamson

Unable to sustain local market

The local agricultural sector is on its knees – at least if the picture painted by President Mokgweetsi Masisi is anything to go by!

In his 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Masisi revealed that the food import bill for the last financial year was estimated at P7.7 billion, an increase from P6.9 billion recorded in 2017.

The bulk of imported food stuff was listed as dairy and dairy products, followed by fruits and vegetable.

In 2018/19 financial year, which ended in March, the annual demand for milk reportedly stood at 65 million litres.

Only nine million litres were produced locally, which actually represents a slight increase from the 8.6 million produced the year before.

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Local production will receive a much-needed pull in the udder with the upcoming Milk Afric Dairy Farm in Lobatse, which is expected to milk 500 cows initially, gradually increasing the number to 2, 000.

On the beef production side, during the 2018/19 financial year, a total of 271, 210 cattle were slaughtered by the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and private slaughter facilities.

This falls well short of the annual 310, 900 target.

Masisi noted that since 2011, there has been a recorded decline of the national cattle population from 3.1 million to an estimated 2 million in 2018.

In response, Masisi says government has adopted a Beef Cluster Strategy, which has identified areas of improvement, including ways of upgrading production, research and technology transfer and promotion and marketing of beef.

Meanwhile the local horticulture sub-sector is said to have shown signs of improvement, with domestic production of potatoes and tomatoes registering consistent growth in the past years.

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The current production is said to stand at 73, 487 tonnes, accounting for 42.4 percent of the national demand of 112, 000 tonnes.

According to Masisi, the restriction on the importation of horticulture products such as border closures has helped in developing the local horticulture sector, particularly in the production of fresh vegetables.

Local production is reported to have shown steady growth over the last ten years in terms of both production and the number of farmers taking part in the sector.

During this time, the number of horticulture farmers increases by 61 percent from 400 in 2008 to 1, 018 in 2018.

Effectively, output in this sector also improved, increasing from 37, 890 tonnes to 65, 698 tonnes in the same period.

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