Botswana‘s efforts to produce enough food for itself has been noted as bearing fruits, this emerged recently at a number of agricultural gatherings nationwide.
A week ago in Mosisedi Farmers Harvest day, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi observed that Botswana was capable of being food sufficient and even exporting agricultural food produce to foreign markets. The VP however remarked that such dream will not be realized over night. Currently, Botswana imports cumulatively across all food commodities well over 50 % of its food consumed daily. Notably a lot more under the fruits fresh produce and diary, milk products with only 6 % of milk consumed locally being produced in Botswana.
The country’s biggest supplier of agricultural produce is South Africa. Apart from government policies which include agriculture tailored funding frameworks; incentives and land allocations, farmers’ commitment is viewed as major ingredient to realization of Botswana’s dream of being food secure.
Cluster farming, which is a cooperative-like large scale professional farming set-up is one of the strategic models echoed many times as a highly productive undertaking. Mosisedi farms and Pandamatenga farmers are notably some commercial farming setups that are believed to be true success stories of cluster farming.
Government investment arm Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Chief Executive Thabo Thamane urged other farmers from other locations around Botswana to come to the party by learning from Mosisedi farmers and other successful cluster agricultural producers.
“We as CEDA spent over 50 million in Mosisedi farmers alone, and we continue doing more for these serious farmers ranging from organized training, skills exchange and capacity building, but my worry and concern is that other farmers around the country are just spectators in this endeavour of commercializing agriculture, we have long asked them to formulate very formidable clusters with feasible ideas well put in paper so that we can assist them financially but they are not showing any seriousness,” he said. Mosisedi Farmers Association comprises of twenty-five dedicated farmers, who collectively till over 10,000 hectares of land, with the common objective of ensuring food security for the country producing field crops.
CHALLENGES FACING AGRICULTURE IN BOTSWANA
Just like any other economic sector, Agriculture is faced with its own unique challenges that are mainly environmental because of the nature of the sector itself. Most farmers being small scale and non commercial depend on rain for ploughing and also use outdated methods of farming.
For Animal Husbandry Botswana as a semi desert vegetated country is vulnerable to animal diseases with a common one being Foot and Mouth Disease which has proven expensive to deal with in the past. As for crop produce, slow adoption of Batswana farmers to modernized techno-based models and methods of farming due to lack of knowledge and agricultural education hinders efforts of a commercial farming Botswana. Botswana‘s climate conditions also contributes negatively to farmers’ produce.
Vice President Masisi noted that issues of poor climate conditions needed to be outsmarted by introduction of new technologies and modernized practices of farming. “Considering the scarcity of higher yielding agricultural land, I urge all farmers to embrace Climate Smart Agriculture as it promotes sustainable intensification of agricultural inputs, which increases output per area, without necessarily increasing the area under production. Furthermore, I encourage farmers to continue soil testing and using the right agro-chemicals for their crops,” he emphasized.
Poor infrastructure is also noted as a contribution to slow improvement of the agricultural sector locally. Still at the Mosisedi Harvest Day Bangwaketse Paramount Chief Kgosi Malopi told gatherers that poor roads was a huge challenge during the times of harvest. He said that farmers needed roads in good conditions to move large tonnes of harvest to reach their market after ploughing seasons. He however commended government efforts where electricity reached most farmers and this helps them cut costs of operations and improved on efficiency.
Mosisedi farms also recently joined the Motloutse farms in SPEDU region to enjoy subsidized connection of electricity in their farms. “Mosisedi Farmers’ Association is amongst those who have already benefited from ESP, with 18 farms now connected to electricity. I am further informed that the Association is planning to do irrigated arable production in response to climate change and the electricity will facilitate installation of irrigation equipment,” observed Masisi.â€¨
Botswana Government efforts to unleash potential in the Agricultural Sector precisely commercial farming are commendable. The establishment of National Development Bank, though it hasn’t been as much as successful as anticipated has assisted in setting up of some of Botswana’s largest commercial farms especially in the livestock segment.
CEDA also a government arm funds viable agricultural projects to tunes of millions and government has already spent billions of pula investing in Agriculture through CEDA. For environmental challenges Government with additional technical support from regional and global partners has introduced the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programme. This is a long-term initiative that commenced in 2015 and is expected to continue until 2030. Masisi echoed that the primary aim of the CSA programme is to improve agricultural productivity, while reducing farmers’ vulnerability to climate change.
“CSA will boost investment in agricultural research and innovation in order to achieve high levels of sustained productivity. Vision 2036 aspirations speak to a sustainable agricultural sector that optimizes agricultural returns through the adoption of modern applicable farming technology. It is, therefore, pleasing to note that the CSA programme has already encompassed the use of technology as a driver for attaining high output in the agricultural sector,” he said.
Government last year September rearranged ministries and aligned departments to keep to times with evolving economic challenges, administration and governance shortcomings. The Ministry of Agriculture as realigned to add the segment of Food Security with an aim of fast tracking Botswana‘s quest for food sufficiency.
Former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile QJ Masire was quoted recently applauding the efforts of Botswana in improving the agricultural sector saying they are beginning to bear fruits. Masire, a farmer himself observed that youth participation in agricultural businesses presented hope that in decades to come agriculture will create jobs and deliver a much needed diversified economy.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.
In the latest June 2022 global economic prospects, released last week the World Bank has warned that low global economic growth and economic activity in global commodity markets such as China and Europe could negatively affect export revenues for Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries.
Recent data from Statistics Botswana show that Botswana’s exports destined to the global markets such as Asia and the European Union (EU) on monthly basis accounts for around 60.1 percent and 20.1 percent respectively.
The World Bank last week lowered its 2022 projections of global economic growth and indicated that the new forecasts could be bad news for countries like Botswana who are dependent on export mineral revenues. The Bank noted that just over two years after COVID-19 caused the deepest global recession since World War II, the world economy is again in danger and stated that this time it is facing high inflation and slow growth at the same time.
In the recent June projections, the bank lowered its forecast of global economic growth from the January 4.1 percent to 2.1 percent. “Our June forecasts reflect a sizable downgrade to the outlook: global growth is expected to slow sharply from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent this year. This also reflects a nearly one-third cut to our January 2022 forecast for this year of 4.1 percent,” a team of World Bank economists noted in the June 2022 Global Economic Prospects.
The World Bank indicated that exports from Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China and Europe. The Bank noted that exporters of industrial metals, crude oil, and ores such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia could suffer from a substantial deceleration of activity in China.
On the other hand a sharp contraction of growth in the euro area could hurt exporters of agricultural products such as beef, coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, and textiles from Botswana, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Malawi. “The faster-than-expected deceleration of the global economy and increased volatility of commodity prices could hurt many SSA commodity exporters,” said World Bank President David Malpass.
Malpass indicated that subdued growth in the global markets for Botswana and other Sub Saharan exports will likely persist throughout the decade because of weak investment in most of the world.
He noted that with inflation now running at multi-decade highs in many countries and supply expected to grow slowly, inflation could remain higher for longer than currently anticipated. “Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years— unless major supply increases are set in motion. Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump in 2022. Several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely,” said Malpass.