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Over 820 million people worldwide are hungry- FAO

A recently released report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO says over 820 million people across the world are going hungry. It says, for decades, the world was making progress in the fight against hunger.

Now, the number of undernourished people is on the rise again. Unhealthy diets have now become a leading risk factor for disease and death worldwide. There is an urgent need to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone, the report said. It designated that 149 million children under five are stunted, while over 49 million are affected by wasting. Furthermore, the report specified that 670 plus million adults and 120 plus million children are obese, adding that 40 million children under five are overweight.

Unhealthy diets, combined with sedentary lifestyles, are the number one risk factor for disability and death from non-communicable diseases. It alleged different forms of malnutrition can co-exist within the same household and even the same individual during their lifetime and can be passed from one generation to the next. The report said people who experience moderate levels of food insecurity or worse, including those who do not have regular access to enough nutritious food, are at a greater risk of various forms of malnutrition.

It says malnutrition affects one in three people and van take the forms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stunting, wasting, and overweight and obesity. An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The report indicated that health problems linked to obesity are costing national health budgets up to 2 trillion US Dollars per year.

Why is this happening? According to the report, in the recent decades, people have dramatically changed their diets and eating patterns as a result of globalization, urbanization and income growth. They have moved from seasonal, mainly plat-based and fibre-rich dishes to high calorie diets, which are high in refined starches, sugar, and fats, salt, processed foods, are often marked by excessive consumption of meat.

People spend less time preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and tae-away restaurants. In much of the world, the report stressed that guaranteeing availability and access to healthy diets remains an enormous challenge. This can be true of people with limited financial resources, including smallholder agricultural producers and families in crisis situations caused by conflict, natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Some people, due to where they live, do not even have the option to purchase fresh and nutritious food.

It however highlighted that the way of producing, supplying and consuming food has to change. From the farm to the plate, it said food systems currently favour production of high-yielding staple crops. In addition to the impact of diets, intensified food production, combined with climate change, is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity. Today, only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of total crop production despite the fact that, throughout history, more than 6 thousand species have been cultivated for food. The world currently rely on only three crops, wheat, maize and rice, to provide nearly 50 per cent of the global dietary energy supply. A diverse variety of foods is crucial for providing healthy diets and safeguarding the environment, the report said

There are many ways in which governments can help to reduce hunger, improve nutrition and transform food system by addressing the root causes of malnutrition in all its forms, the report indicated. Government should increase the availability and affordability of diverse and nutritious foods for healthy diets by setting, enforcing and regularly updating national dietary guidelines and nutrition standards.

Design and implement nutrition-sensitive policies and programmes in line with national guidelines, as well as strengthening legal frameworks and strategic capacities to support this. It noted that work across sectors to improve food and agricultural policies, including those which support school food and nutrition programmes, food assistance to vulnerable families and individuals, public food procurement standards and regulations on food marketing, labelling and advertising.

Governments should enable consumers to make healthier food choices through mass-media, public awareness campaigns, nutrition-education programmes, community interventions and nutrition labelling. The report underlined that there is need to support solutions rooted in food production to reduce malnutrition, increase dietary diversity and improve nutrition for a healthier and sustainable future.

 Meanwhile, globally, around 14% of food produced is lost from the post-harvest stage. Reducing food loss and waste is widely seen as an important way to reduce production costs and increase the efficiency of the food system, improve food security and nutrition, and contribute towards environmental sustainability. Growing attention to food loss and waste is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. SDG target 12.3 calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food loss along production and supply chains by 2030.

Reducing food loss and waste also has the potential to contribute to other SDGs, including zero hunger goals, which call for an end of hunger, the achievement of food security and improved nutrition, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The expected positive environmental impacts from reducing food loss and waste would also affect, among other things sustainable water management, climate change, marine resources, terrestrial ecosystems, forestry, biodiversity and many other SDGs.

While the reduction of food loss and waste appears as a clear and desirable objective, actual implementation is not simple and its complete elimination not be realistic. This report acknowledges the need to reduce food loss and waste, presents new insights on what is known and what is not, and provides guidance on how to target interventions and policies depending on policymaker’s objectives and the information available.

Deciding on concrete actions, interventions or policies to reduce food loss and waste requires answers to a number of questions: In which locations and stages of the supply chain is food lost or wasted and to what extent? Why does food loss and waste occur? How can it be reduced? What are the costs involved? And, ultimately, who benefits from reducing food loss and waste, and who loses?

Responding to all these questions will require access to proper information. When considering actions and policy options, the report argues that food loss and waste reduction should be seen as a way to achieve other objectives; notably improved efficiency in the food system, improved food security and nutrition, and improved environmental sustainability. How policymakers prioritize these different dimensions, and the information available on how food loss and waste affects them, will shape the most appropriate mix of interventions and policies to reduce food loss and waste.

According to the report, the notion of food being lost and wasted is deceptively simple, but in practice there is no commonly agreed definition of food loss and waste. The various definitions often reflect the different problems that stakeholders or analysts focus on or associate with food loss and waste. Consequently, analysis of food loss and waste is hampered by this lack of definition. FAO has worked towards the harmonization of concepts related to food loss and waste, and the definitions adopted in this report are the results of consensus reached in consultations with experts in this field.

To gain further insight into location and extent of food loss and waste, FAO has also conducted a meta-analysis of existing studies that measure food loss and waste in countries all over the world. It illustrates how food loss and waste various across stages in the food supply chain, as well as between regions and commodity groups. The meta-analysis finds a wide range of values for percentage losses at each stage in the food supply chain.

This highlights the need to measure losses carefully for specific value chains to identify concretely where significant losses occur, so as to better understand where to intervene. Generally, levels of loss are higher for fruits and vegetables than for cereals and pulses. However, even for the latter, significant levels are found in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, while they are limited in Central and Southern Asia. Studies on waste at the consumer stage are confined to high-income countries; they indicate that waste levels are high for all types of food, but particularly for highly perishable foods such as animal products and fruits and vegetables. 

Cause of food loss and waste differ widely along the food supply chain, according to the report. Important causes of on-farm losses include inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, practices applied at harvest and handling, and challenges in marketing produce. Significant losses are caused by inadequate storage conditions as well as decisions made at earlier stages of the supply chain, which predispose products to a shorter shelf life. Adequate cold storage, in particular, can be crucial to prevent quantitative and qualitative food losses.

During transportation, good physical infrastructure and efficient trade logistics are of key importance to prevent food losses. The report indicated that processing and packaging can play a role in preserving foods, but losses can be caused by inadequate facilities as well as technical malfunction or human error. According to the FAO report, the causes of food waste at the retail level are linked to the limited shelf life, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards in terms of colour, shape and size, and variability in demand. Consumer waste is often caused by poor purchase and meal planning, excuse buying, confusion over labels and poor –n-home storing.

The report stressed that the broader case for reducing food loss and waste looks beyond the business case to include gains that society can reap but which individual actors may not take into account. It noted that there are three main types of societal gains which justify interventions to reduce food loss and waste beyond the pure business cases, namely; increased productivity and economic growth, improved food security and nutrition as well as mitigation of environmental impacts and wasting food, in particular in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as lowering pressure on land and water resources.

The last two societal gains, the report said are typically seen as externalities of reducing food loss and waste. It underlined that each of the three societal gains being pursued has specific characteristics that can provide insights on the most appropriate types of interventions. Further, the report highlighted that food loss and waste has the potential effects on food security and nutrition through changes in the four dimensions of food security: food availability, access, utilization and stability.

However, the links between food loss and waste reduction and food security are complex, and positive outcomes are not always certain. Reaching acceptable levels of food security and nutrition inevitably implies certain levels of food loss and waste. The report communicated that maintaining buffers to ensure food stability requires a certain amount of food to be lost or wasted. At the same time, ensuring food safety involves discarding unsafe food, which then gets counted as lost or wasted, while higher-quality diets tend to include more highly perishable foods.

It also conveyed that the impact of a reduction in food loss and waste will go beyond the immediate location of the reduction as the effects ripple through the supply chain- leading to lower prices- and more broadly through the economy. However, the exact impact will depend on how closely markets are integrated and how effectively price changes are transmitted. A key factor, according to the report is distance or proximity to the location of the reduction.

Reducing on-farm losses on small farms in lower-income countries may have a strong local food security impact. On the other hand, reducing food waste among consumers in high-income countries is unlikely to have the positive food security effects generally expected. The increased availability of food locally in these settings does not mean that these surpluses are available for poor and food-insecure people in a distant country with high levels of food insecurity.

The prevalence of food security, according to the report, can be relevant for determining food loss and waste reduction strategies for a given country’s food security challenges. In lower-income countries, where food security is often severe, increasing access to food is critical, and access itself is likely to be closely associated with availability. Preventing food losses at the local level in smallholder production can both alleviate food shortages and increase farmer’s incomes, thus improving access. It was said that if reductions in losses are large enough to affect prices beyond the local area, the urban food insecure could also benefit.

At the other extreme, in high-income countries, the problem of access is relevant for a much smaller share of the population; for many, the priority is nutrition and quality of diet. A broad campaign to reduce food waste is unlikely to benefit the small proportion of people facing food insecurity in high-income countries. For these countries, more targeted interventions, such as food redistribution, can contribute to access to food; however, eliminating remaining levels of food insecurity will also have to rely on a broader set of social policies.

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Government ignores nurses’ COVID-19 anxieties

4th August 2021
Nurses

Health workers are at the front line fighting the deadly, contagious COVID-19. These workers have an immense challenge of welfare and government has since turned a blind eye to dares and crushing odds throttling health officers, particularly nurses.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has once more called on government to invest in the country’s nurses and give the nursing profession dignity.

In May 2020, BONU President, Obonolo Rahube said government should, in line with the advocacy of World Health Organisation (WHO) invest more on nurses and midwives, and further advised government to address challenges that nurses are faced with. The proposal was made on International Nurses Day.

At the time, Rahube urged government to provide subsidised accommodation for nurses and midwives as it has emerged that during the fight against the Corona-virus, accommodation for nurses and midwives is very important. Rahube called on government to provide nurses and midwives with 100% medical cover.

He also called on government to introduce risk allowance for nurses and midwives, noting that as frontline workers during the pandemic, they are at high risk. Nurses also demanded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), a matter which they lost with costs in court. Also critical during the COVID-19 era for health workers, psychological support is what BONU maintains is still lacking.

In the same year (2020), the Union raised a number of other challenges they are being faced with. These challenges, they asserted, make it testing for them to undertake their duties, especially now that COVID-19 has shaken Botswana’s already weak health system.

BONU expressed disappointment at nurses’ pay, nurses who tested positive for COVID-19 at an alarming rate, violence against nurses, nurses’ contracts which were never renewed and a poorly coordinated vaccination plan for health workers.

Clearly, nurses are not only battling the COVID-19 virus, but also government who has since refused to come to the party.

This week once again, BONU tested waters and slammed government with more demands, some of which have turned into an everyday song while COVID-19 continues to kill more nurses.

At a press conference on Tuesday, BONU President Rahube said over 800 nurses have been infected with COVID-19. Of this number, 34 nurses lost their lives due to COVID-19 related infections.

WHO and other health experts say for countries to emerge victorious from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must fast-track the roll out of vaccine. In Botswana, there is no clear explanations of how the vaccination plan is going.

The situation around vaccination is chaotic, and this is evidenced by only 28% of nurses who have been vaccinated. President Mokgweetsi Masisi is also disturbed by the COVAX programme as Botswana vaccines arrive in the country missing, every time.

Debates in Parliament on which vaccine to adopt are failing to conclude, in fact, they never gained energy. Rahube told members of the media that nurses are overworked.

“Shortage of nurses puts those available at risk. Some nurses are on isolation, quarantine and some passed on. Nurses do both testing and contact tracing so they end up working stretched hours, at times from 6am to 10pm. There is no how nurses will be able to deliver while exhausted,” he said.

He further indicated that infection control practitioners are not recognised and deployed appropriately, and some regions have shortage of commodities and supplies such as water resistant gowns (nurses are forced to re-use those availed), masks, gloves, scrubs and uniforms.

Oxygen supply is said to be in shortage, something that mounts COVID-19 deaths.

“Patients lose their lives whilst still awaiting to be put on oxygen. Psychological services are in serious need as nurses continue to lose their significant others, faced with resource constraints and many of them are not vaccinated,” said Rahube.

Accommodation still remains a huge challenge for nurses. BONU President said nurses overcrowd with families and colleagues.

In Kauxwi, four nurses share a single house, in Moshaweng two nurses share a single bedroomed house together with their families, with no electricity yet the village is powered. In Kazungula, there are only two staff houses for 11 nurses and their families.

The union stressed that the Chief Nursing Officer is not coming to the party, and the expectation is that the office should be coordinating all nursing issues at the Health Ministry. Rahube indicated that transfers have been frozen, promotions stalled and they continue to lose nursing posts to other Ministries.

In a number of recommendations, BONU urged government to consider compensation and risk allowance for staff affected by COVID-19 related deaths and those infected. “COVID-19 has been declared an occupational health illness, in essence, the employer should facilitate its occupational health division, and there are lots of occupational health nurses who are wrongly deployed, who could be running such programs at the facilities.”

In regard to vaccinations, BONU underlined that there should be clear information relating to vaccines and they should be made accessible. “Local franchise manufacturing of vaccine could use Botswana Vaccines Institute (BVI) and government should be clear and transparent concerning procurement of vaccines. It should also allow stakeholders with capacities of procuring vaccines to do so.”

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Gov’t reforms public procurement

4th August 2021
-Masisi-Serame

Government is moving swiftly to completely overhaul public procurement — a new Bill has been tabled before Parliament this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame and is scheduled for debate in the coming days of the current parliament sitting. 

Through this Bill the country’s purse bearer seeks to dismantle existing public procurement pieces of legislation, transform, merge and form a new public procurement arrangement. The existing public procurement high command base — the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPDB) would cease to exist.

This organisation will transition and assume the reigns of a regulator and oversight authority; the actual procurement; floating of tenders, accepting bids, adjudicating and awarding tenders will be fully taken over by Government departments accounting officers.

Accounting officers are Permanent Secretaries and statutory organisation heads and directors or any person who is responsible for the administration and day-to-day management of the affairs of a procuring entity, and any other person, who may be designated as such by the Minister under the act.

Speaking to this Bill this week, Serame revealed that the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal arrangement will be merged with the local authority’s procurement Act.

“We will now have procurement under one roof, all overseen by accounting officers, it’s all government money coming from one port,” she said.

Minister Serame explained that PPADB will no longer be player and referee at the same time, with a view to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation and management of public procurement processes.

According to Minister Serame, the new public procurement Act will promote competition among suppliers and contractors, and also provide for the fair, equal and equitable treatment of all suppliers and contractors.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REGULATORY AUTHORITY 

Should parliament pass this bill the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will transition into a new body called Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The new Authority will be  mandated with setting standards and practices for the public procurement system, regulate and control the public procurement system, ensure the application of fair, equitable, competitive, transparent, accountable, efficient, non-discriminatory, honest, value for money and public confidence in procurement standards and practices.

Furthermore the Authority will monitor and enforce compliance with the new Act and any relevant law by a procuring entity.

For standardization and  ensuring of world class procurement best practices the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will  monitor, assess, review and report on the performance of the public procurement system to the Minister and advise on desirable changes, and further issue standardized bidding documents to all procuring entities

This oversight and procurement regulator will conduct periodic inspections of the records and proceedings of a procuring entity to ensure compliance with the Act.

The regulator will institute periodically, in respect of any procurement —a procurement audit during a tender process, a contract audit in the course of execution of an awarded tender, a performance audit after the completion of a contract, and an investigation at any stage of a procurement process.

The Authority will continue to keep and maintain an up-to-date register of contractors, known as the “Contractors’ Register”, in works, services and supplies, or any combination thereof, however classified.

The new Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will be governed by a board of nine (9) non-executive directors appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The Public Procurement Board will be charged with directing the affairs of the Authority. Day to day executive activities of the Public Procurement Authority will be run by a Chief Executive Officer who will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board.

PROCURING ENTITIES AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS 

The actual procurement will now be handled by the Accounting Officers who will lead their procuring entities. The entities will consist of the procurement oversight unit, a procurement unit, an ad hoc Evaluation Committee, the user Department; or any other appropriate structure put in place by the Government.

The Accounting Officer will be in charge of establishment of appropriate procurement structures to undertake the procurement functions under the new act, which shall be staffed at an appropriate level in line with the model structure issued by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The Accounting Officer will also be charged with establishment, as may be prescribed, of a committee within a procuring entity which will oversee procurement activities, establishment, as may be prescribed, of an oversight committee to monitor procurement activities in a procuring entity.

The primary role of the Accounting Officers will be adjudication and award of tenders, including the adjudication of a bid recommendation submitted to him/her through a procurement oversight unit.

The Accounting officer will have powers to cancel a tender process and reject a tender offer at any time prior to entering into a contract, in the manner as may be prescribed, and the Accounting Officer shall not compensate the bidder of a tender that has been cancelled.

Under this proposed Act new set of regulations and guidelines will direct procurement complaints and appeals.

COMPLAINTS & TENDER DISPUTES

A procuring entity  will, after the publication of an award decision — allow a cooling-off period of 10 days in order for the procuring entity to receive and address complaints, if any, from any contractor who is aggrieved by the award decision; and not enter into a contract relating to the award before the expiration of a cooling period.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a breach of any provision of this Act or claims to have suffered or is likely to suffer loss or damages due to a breach of a duty imposed on a procuring entity shall, at the first instance, lodge a complaint before an Accounting Officer for review.

A contractor who lodges a complaint shall have the right to participate in the review proceedings before an Accounting Officer. A contractor who fails to participate in the review proceedings shall be barred from subsequently lodging the same complaint.

Under this proposed Act an Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint after a contract has entered into force. After considering a complaint and determining that the complaint is a frivolous or vexatious complaint, Accounting Officer shall dismiss such complaint.

Notwithstanding subsection (1), an Accounting Officer may refer a complaint considered and determined to be frivolous or vexatious to the Tribunal for the Tribunal to take any appropriate action as may be prescribed.

An aggrieved person shall submit his or her complaint in writing to an Accounting Officer within 10 days from the date of the publication of an award decision by the Accounting Officer, relating to the complaint.

The Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint unless it is submitted to him/her within the period referred to under subsection.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a decision of an Accounting Officer may appeal to the Tribunal within 14 days from the date of the decision of the Accounting Officer.

Where a contract has been concluded by a procuring entity, based on an award decision of an Accounting Officer, the contract shall be irrevocable and its execution shall proceed without interruption whether the award decision by the Accounting Officer may in itself remain disputable by a contractor through the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Tribunal may suspend and subsequently revoke or terminate the execution of a contract if in the opinion of the Tribunal, sufficient evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that the execution of the contract may cause substantial loss to the public revenue or prejudicially affect public interest.

A complainant who wishes to lodge a complaint shall exhaust the dispute resolution processes provided in this Act before the complainant refers the complaint to a court.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT TRIBUNAL 

The Tribunal will be a body established independently from Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, and shall constitute retired High Court judges or practicing attorneys who qualify to appoint high court judge.

The Tribunal shall adjudicate over any matter brought before it by a complainant for a breach of any of the provisions of this Act, or any appeal brought in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

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COVID-19 hits hard on BITC

4th August 2021
BITC

The COVID-19 pandemic which weakened world economies had left a devastating impact on Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) existence in 2020. According to the group’s 2019/2020 Annual Report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was sluggish for the first two quarters at P126 million and P426.96 million respectively. They then took an upward trajectory in Q3 and 4 at P1396 million and P1456 million respectively.

The year closed with a reduced performance at 73% for Q4. According to the financial report, export earnings opened the year at 83% which is approximately P671 million, before dropping to 81% (P1299.55 million). However, Quarter 3 experienced a slight rise in performance to 82%, or P1978.42 million before a drop in performance to close Quarter 4 at P74.9%, which was P2403.91 million.

Even if that is the case, the Centre continued to promote local investors by facilitating for local entrepreneurs to produce and find markets for their products both locally and internationally. The trend for Domestic Investment/Expansions indicated a continual upward performance surge from Quarter 1 through Quarter 4.

In percentage points, performance results reflected opening of 93% performance followed by a dip in performance to 82% Quarter 2, and then an increase to 100% in Quarter 3 and closing performance of 84.2% in Quarter 4.

For this financial year under review, BITC posted solid financial results with a surplus of P872.968, representing a decline from the previous year’s surplus of P13.991.337. The Centre started on track from the beginning of the financial year with successful execution of activities planned for the year.

However, following the subsequent onset of COVID-19 in the last quarter for the financial year, a few of the activities were negatively affected resulting from restricted cross border transfers. The impact is expected to be severe in the following financial year, especially on the Centre’s financial statements, clearly reflecting the negative impact of COVID-19.

In the financial year ended March 2020, BITC received a total subvention of P96.504.860 which represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s subvention of P101.830.560. the Grant subvention received for the past 5 years has not been constant due to the financial constraints that the government has experienced over the years which prompted for alignment of financial resources to cover the Centre’s strategic imperatives.

For the year under review BITC’s annual FDI capital inflows realised stood at P1.456 billion against an annual target of P2 billion, which is largely attributable to more than expected performance from the Financial Services sector. The total Domestic Investment for the period was P875.5 million against the set stretched target of P952 million. The total number of jobs registered by the organisation during the year under review was 3329, against an annual target of 3340.

BITC ACHIEVEMENTS

Notwithstanding that, BITC realised high level achievements for the year under review. Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile said facilitated to establish the Selibe-Phikwe citrus project, which has a job creation expectation of 1000 vacancies as well as the expansion of Kromberg and Shubert Company through the allocation of land for construction of 7000 square metres factory to manufacture wire harness for Mercedes Benz, with over 800 jobs expected this year.

Further, the Centre continued to deliver improved investor facilitation services to both local and foreign investors through the Botswana one Stop service centre (BOSSC). “BOSSC houses relevant government departments under one roof to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors. The services offered by this Centre have grown from slightly above 130 applications for government authorisation in 2013 to 752 in the year under review,” said Olebile.

BITC continued to monitor Botswana’s performance in global competitiveness indicators such as the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index. “In an endeavour to improve the investor facilitation mechanism in the country, we have motivated for the drafting of a Business Facilitation Law, which will expedite the setting up and operations of businesses in Botswana.”

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION DRIVE

BITC continued to respond to government’s call to stimulate direct investment and growth of local companies by procuring goods and services from locally based manufactures and services providers. The message to promote locals to actively grow the national economy has been driven through campaigns such as ‘PushaBW’ which utilised an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. As at March 2020, local purchases constituted 84% (2019:85%) of the total procurement with foreign purchases at 16% (2019:15%).

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