The decision to cut down on the importation of vegetables and fruits at the start of last year is bearing fruit.
When delivering the State of The Nation Address (SONA) this week, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed the intervention has resulted in the fresh produce import bill being trimmed from P634 million in 2018 to P182 million in 2023.
“This has reduced the import bill by P452 million, which is 71 percent reduction. We achieved this, while simultaneously increasing our national capacity to produce the food we need daily at both household and national levels,” highlighted Masisi, in what was his 6th SONA since assuming power.
Implemented in January 2022, the restrictions saw a ban on the import of 19 fruits and veggies, including big hitters like: potatoes, watermelons, onions, carrots, butternut, beetroots, cabbage, tomato and ginger.
To boost local production, the horticultural sector was facilitated by Government’s Impact Accelerator Facility, to the tune of P70 million under the Transitional National Development Plan.
Masisi said this allowed for a 50 percent grant to farmers and 50 percent contribution on their part.
“To date, 461 farmers across the country have benefited from the initiative. The scheme enabled farmers to equip their boreholes with solar energy, and provided them with reservoirs and shade netting, amongst others,” he said.
Masisi admitted these notable gains are characterised by a painful transition of under-supply, low quality and increased cost.
“We must appreciate that these are serious issues we have to contend with, if we are to be self-reliant and achieve food security.”
He noted that as part of developing value chains, Government will facilitate the establishment of a horticulture market in collaboration with the private sector.
“The horticulture market will begin operations by April 2024. The market will enhance self-reliance, access, competitiveness and price stability, the result of which will be the promotion of wider citizen participation in the agro-business and associated value chains,” he predicted.
“Our aspirations continue to be for a sustainable, technology driven and commercially viable agricultural sector, aimed at attaining food security,” said Masisi, adding no nation can stand dignified if it cannot feed itself.