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UNDER STRAIN: Old Pandamatenga silos

Business

Where’s is it gonna go?

Lack of storage for Panda farmers worries BAMB

Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) will once again grapple with lack of storage for this year’s harvest in the Pandamatenga and Chobe areas.

Speaking at the Kazungula Bridge Marathon Activation hosted by SEZA (Special Economic Zone Authority) on Saturday, BAMB Regional Manager-North, Robert Mmereki admitted storage space in Pandamatenga has been a headache for some time.

In 2018, government announced plans to allocate 20, 000 hectares of prime land to farmers in Pandamatenga to enhance the country’s food supply. This meant BAMB needed to increase their storage capacity in preparation for the farmers’ produce.

To that end, in November 2020, SEZA began construction of 12 state-of-the-art steel grain silos, a project that set them back P126 million. The plan was to increase agro-production by tripling the storage space available to BAMB.

Boasting an overall storage capacity of 60, 000 metric tonnes, the silos were supposed to be completed by August 2021. However, they are still not ready.

Despite this, Mmereki remains in good spirits.

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In fact, the Regional Manager believes the investment by SEZA will go a long way in addressing the problem.

“In 2019/20, sorghum harvest stood at 57, 000 metric tonnes, while our capacity is only 30, 000,” he said, adding this created a huge problem as farmers could not sell to them due to lack of storage.

“We were on a regular collision course with farmers, which forced us to go as far as Francistown to seek storage,” he continued.

Mmereki said this resulted in further costs, as they kept trucking more harvest to the second city.

“As we speak today, the bean storages are full, but we’re expecting a new bean harvest in April. Where are we going to store the harvest?” Mmeri pondered, his question hanging heavy in the air.

“This is why we’re excited about this project by SEZA. The infrastructure they’re putting up here will definitely enhance productivity and ease pressure,” he concluded.

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Speaking at the same event, SEZA Chief Executive Officer, Lonely Mogara explained their mandate is to establish, develop, manage and regulate the Special Economic Zones in Botswana.

He said that as one of their SEZ focusing on Agro production and processing, they found it imperative to build the silos in Pandamatenga to help the country reach food sufficiency.

Pandamatenga has roughly 136, 900 hectares set aside for agroproduction, 84, 500ha for commercial production and 12,400ha for subsistence production.

40, 000ha has also been reserved for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project (ZIACDP), which together with the acquired 107ha for Agro-Processing will be developed as the Pandamatenga SEZ, and expected to contribute significantly in reducing the country’s food import bill.

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