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Agriculture’s SONA attraction

Baitshepi Sekgweng
  • Masisi’s address gets sector bullish with excitement

On Monday, eyes and ears were focused firmly on Parliament as, for the fifth time since assuming the top office in the land, President Mokgweetsi Masisi delivered his State of Nation Address (SONA).

The address is meant to highlight key deliverables achieved thus far as well as outlining the country’s direction going forward.

There was plenty to interest those invested in Agriculture, with Masisi praising the sector for continuing to create opportunities for food security, economic diversification and employment through the development of clusters and value chains.

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The President patted his govt on the back for introducing restrictions on vegetable imports at the start of the year, noting this had provided a huge market for Botswana.

The ban covers 16 fruit and vegetables in total, including favourites like: tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.

Happy with what he heard, Botswana Horticulture Council Chairperson, Mogomotsi Moatswi, noted it was heartening for Agriculture to receive so much attention from a SONA.

“The issue of the market was duly addressed through the import ban and the good news is that government pledges much of budget to help improve food security. However, what we wish for is the deliberate establishment of collection centers for value chain development because such centers will eliminate competition between farmers.

Centers work with cooperatives to collect and distribute produce and with that farmers’ role becomes easy since they focus on production. Further centers will give us a chance to quantify produce we have,” said Moatswi, adding improved infrastructure at farms will further shorten the route between harvesting and the market.

Agriculture's SONA attraction

President Masisi also touched upon the construction of Tsabong Multi species abattoir, which will be commissioned in April 2023, and the establishment of a Meat Industry Regulatory Authority, to be tabled at Parliament.

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Other notable initiatives include Artificial Insemination (AI) and importing live animals, moves geared towards improving the quality of livestock and increasing the national herd.

Speaking to Voice Money, Botswana National Beef Producers Union, spokesperson, Andrew Seeletso, said they were pleased with govt’s efforts to develop the ‘quality and quantity’ of the country’s herd, which currently sits at around 1.5 million.

“It’s key to the growth of the sector. Our view is if we improve prices at Botswana Meat Commission there will be more investment and creation of jobs. AI is important since it’s the cheapest way to improve quality of off springs and get quality semen. The liberalization of the industry is a welcome development since it will remove monopoly and promote healthy competition. If there are many industry players in the beef industry then it will make farmers to be paid well and reinvest,” reasoned Seeletso.

As it stands, 248, 000 straws of cattle semen were tapped locally while 12, 200 were procured abroad. A target is set to have 30 bulls and females respectively by end of March 2023, which will help Botswana reach a total of 4.32 million semen straws per annum against the current capacity of 40, 000.

Though few words were spared for Manufacturing, the expansion of Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) plant, which will enable product diversification, is a ray of hope for the sector.

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Positive strides have also been made in Selibe Phikwe, with locals setting up cooking oil plants and nail manufacturing plants.

According to Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) CEO, Mmantlha Sankoloba, while the address didn’t dwell much on the sector, there were several elements to be upbeat with.

“The issue of land allocation was presented well because now a promise has been made that it will never be slow or difficult like before. Since it’s simplified, this will help our sector grow positively as now businesses will be able to acquire land – this is an added advantage to factories setting up for manufacturing,” said Sankoloba.

He also pointed to the Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link as further cause

Scheduled for construction over the next two years, it is expected the link will help ease transportation of Botswana coal and other commodities to international markets.

“It is a welcome development and is critical to our sector because railway is important in trade as it is cheaper and convenient as compared to road and air transport since fuel is expensive. So this kind of infrastructure development is key; we look forward to such since it will help in value chains development and exports of locally manufactured goods to reach nearby markets,” stated Sankoloba.

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