Minister of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia has vowed that his ministry will do everything possible to intensify the fight against outbreak of tomato leaf miner which hit the eastern block of this country hardly two month ago.
Ralotsia who is also Member of Parliament for Kanye South revealed that the newly structured and revived ministry he heads will put all necessary measures from raising awareness, border control, seedling movement restrictions and so forth. This emerged this past week at Ramatlabama border gate where Ralotsia officially commissioned the digital Signage machine.
The digital signage machines are used to transmit bio security messages to different border posts, alerting travelers on bio security messages. Digital signage machines are sub segments of HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signage" o "Signage" signage techno-space equipment using technologies such as HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCD" o "LCD" LCD, HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_display" o "LED display" LED and HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projection_screen" o "Projection screen" Projection to display content such as HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_images" o "Digital images" digital images, HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video" o "Video" video, HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streaming_media" o "Streaming media" streaming media, and information.
The Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security in partnership with Immigration department has adopted the system in an effort to improve border control compliance. According to officials at the ministry the installation of the machine came along with raising awareness to all stakeholders including consumers, agricultural products users and traders.
“We carried out a campaign exercises in 10 districts countrywide training consumers and disseminating information on declaration of agricultural products when crossing borders,” explained Mogomotsi Moatswi a Plant protection officer at the Ministry. Information gathered by WeekendPost also reveals that the compliance border project was financial supported by Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) at a tune of over 2 million pula.
Tomato leaf miner also known as Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) is a highly destructive insect pest to tomato plants and fruit and is also reported to infest other plants in the Solanacaeae family (potato, eggplant, etc.). The pest which is classified to be of quarantine importance was detected in Botswana early December last year, hitting areas such as Bobirwa, Boteti, Chobe, North East, and North West. According to information from the Ministry of Agricultural development & Food Security Tomato leaf miner can cause up to 100% yield loss.
The main pathway for the Tomato leaf miner to spread from one area to another or from one country to another is through the movement of infested seedlings and tomato fruits. The Ministry, given the economic importance of Tomato leaf miner, then put in place a management strategy in which tomato and related crops importation was banned and traders deterred from moving solanaceous crops from the tomato leaf miner infested areas.
The signage machine installation project included the aspect of creating communication system of monitors which will transmit any new or relevant information to customer’s nation at boarders with regard to movement of agriculture products going in and out of the country. WeekendPost gathered that the commissioning of the digital signage was the last lap of the project which started in April 2015 and was expected to end this year in March. According to Moatswi Botswana University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (BUANR) extended a helping hand in training inspectors resourcing them with the ability and capacity to asses crops and animals at the boarder gates
For his part the Minister Ralotsia promised an all our fight against the epidemic that had hit farmers and now threatening Botswana’s food security efforts. “These diseases and pests do not necessarily originate from Botswana while some are brought in by travelers unintentionally and some brought in intentionally by individuals,” he said during the commissioning of the bio security machine in Ramatlabama. Ralotsia observed that the pest aftermaths are felt countrywide and the Tuta absoluta seem to have spread to all parts of the country.
Therefore, he said, there was need to control and contain the pest that was already in the country urging Batswana to cooperate in ensuring that the pest was not allowed any further. According to Ralotsia there is need for everyone to be alert of this pest as it is not only a problem for the ministry. He added that already the impact of the tomato leaf miner is evident with prices now high and shelves sometime empty in retail stores. The minister emphasized that at the moment the ministry has closed down all imports of these vegetables in efforts to control and contain the pest. He expressed worry over indicated that the tomato leaf miner outbreak jeopardised international market and local distribution.
Observers note that the tomato leaf miner could in a short term crush the efforts at Selibe National Agro Processing Plant which process 32 tonnes of tomato per month to tomato source. It is believed that if the things continue the way they are soon the NAFTEC owned tomato source producing plant will run short of pure raw material. NAPRO gets majority of their raw material supply from Bobirwa region plantations, one of the areas hit by Tuta Absoluta.
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”