34 000 tonnes needed to meet local vegetable demand
In January 2022, government took a drastic decision to ban importation of certain vegetables into the country in order to improve local production and support uptake of local produce.
While the decision received mixed reactions from the masses, it has at some point led to massive shortages throughout the country. Among the vegetables banned for importation are potatoes, watermelons, onions, carrots, butternut, beetroots, cabbage, tomato and ginger just to mention a few.
However, the significant number of imported vegetables presents an opportunity for local producers to more than double their production capacities to meet the national demand and substitute imports. According to a recent study by Local Enterprises Authority(LEA), almost 34 000 tonnes of produce is needed to meet the national demand.
According to the report titled “Market opportunities for restricted Horticulture crops in Botswana”, the increase will boost local inputs production along the horticulture value chain such as seeds and seedlings production, fertilizers and pesticides, packaging material and machinery.
“The restriction is also expected to ease market penetration of local vegetables into the retail market. It is important to note that the yields of some crops such as tomatoes and green pepper increase exponentially under protected environments, and therefore an ideal production method for local farmers. Facilitation of increased production by all key stakeholders in the horticulture sector should achieve self sufficiency in the short to medium term,” reads the report in part.
To substitute the imports, it is estimated that 902 hectares of land will be required to produce about 34 000 tonnes of vegetables or even more, provided there is no harvest loss. As a result, the local market is still dominated by imports, contributing 54 percent of local demand while local production stands at 46 percent, providing an opportunity for local producers to increase local production by more than 34 000 tonnes of the restricted vegetables.
The top five vegetables in higher demand in Botswana being: potatoes, tomatoes, onions, peppers and carrots had a monetary demand of P293 million, with imports accounting for P155 million while local production stood at P136 million in 2020.
The report further indicates that imports have also continued to increase year-on-year since 2017, with Botswana importing about 27,000 tonnes for three consecutive years from 2017-2019, and, in value terms increasing from P139m in 2017 to P162m both in 2018 and 2019. Imports continued to increase in 2020 to about 34,000 tonnes at a value of P197m and were at 33,000 tonnes, valued P194m for the 9-months period of 2021.
“This increase of imports became more significant from 2020 during the commencement of the COVID-19 and resultant lockdowns. The exports decreased dramatically to about 2 tonnes in 2020, at a value of about P48 000. This might have resulted from the economic relief packages (in the form of food parcels) at the beginning of the lockdown in 2020, which was meant to relief vulnerable families from the negative impact of COVID-19. Government procured vegetables from local producers for distribution to vulnerable families through the relief program,” the report further reads, indicating that exports recorded in 2017-2019 ranged from 11-21 tonnes.
Therefore, with the local market yet to satisfy and meet local demand, five major areas along Shashe River, Molopo-Limpopo Rivers and Boteti Rivers have been identified as major horticulture agro-ecological zones. However, outside these
ecological zones, there is also horticulture production that takes place in Kweneng, Boteti and North East.