Ready for harvest

Kabelo Dipholo
IN DEMAND: Potatoes

Over 5000 tonnes of potatoes is expected to be harvested from Pandamatenga farms from April until September this year.

This is according to Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association (PCFA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lilian Scheepers.

Scheepers told Voice Money that the PCFA has four potato growers who have planted a total area of 109 hectares.

“The growers estimate about 50 tons per hectare which gives an expected total production of 5 450 tons of potatoes or 545 000 bags of 10kg,” she said.

Scheepers says harvesting began on 11th April and is planned to be in full production until September.

“Due to rainfall and the type of soil, the Pandamatenga growers cannot plant potatoes during November to March,” she said.

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The Panda harvest began a week after Gantsi farms began harvesting, something which is expected to replenish the market which had been hit by an acute shortage of the popular vegetable.

The country has been experiencing a shortage of some vegetables following a January 2022 import ban on selected vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes.

The Ghantsi farms reported an expected output of 5 000 tonnes, taking the total to a little over 11 000 tonnes, which is well below the country’s annual consumption of 20 000 tonnes of potatoes. The country however has other potato growers in the Tuli area, who produce way less than 5 000 tonnes.

Last year President Mokgweetsi Masisi said since the ban on veges, local potato growers were able to meet 70 percent of the local demand.

According to statistics from Food and Agriculture Organisition (FAO) Botswana’s potato consumption is set to remain unchanged at 20,000 tonnes in 2026, unchanged from 2021.

The demand for fries or ‘mafresh’ on the streets is however still as high as ever, with small scale traders forced to travel long distances to buy potato bags in demand from street vendors and tuck-shop owners. These traders are known to camp outside big farms awaiting a chance to load their mini trucks.

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Scheepers says they are aware of the demand from small businesses and individuals. She says they don’t discriminate, but sell their product to everyone.

“The delay to load trucks is mainly caused by the grade of the potatoes that the buyers are looking for. About 75% of the potatoes harvested are Class 1, representing the best product of the harvest. The remaining 25% splits between Class 2, Class 3 and damaged, and their prices are cheaper than Class 1,” she said.

She further told Voice Money that the buyers who are interested in purchasing Class 2, Class 3 and damages must wait longer than the buyers of Class 1 potatoes because all potatoes have to be graded and processed before the farmer can pack according to class.

“Since Class 1 holds majority of the production, the other classes do not represent large volumes to be packed quickly enough to attend the quantities that the SMMEs are willing to buy. Usually, this is what cause the delay to load trucks,” explained Scheepers.

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