BOTSWANA – Botswana has expanded its import restrictions on specific fresh produce, extending the deadline to 2025 in a bid to elevate domestic agricultural production and reduce reliance on imports.

Initially slated to conclude this December, the government has now extended the deadline to December 2025 and plans to increase the restricted items to 32 starting from July next year.

However, this extension comes with a grace period until July, providing local farmers in Botswana with the opportunity to bolster their production capacity.

Botswana’s agricultural sector, although relatively small and accounting for approximately 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has grappled with drought as a recurring challenge.

Before the initial two-year ban took effect in January 2022, South Africa had been the source of about 80% of Botswana’s food imports.

“The ban has resulted in a significant reduction of 71% in Botswana’s fresh-produce import bill,” announced President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Despite Botswana’s assertion that these restrictions aim to safeguard and nurture local industries, there are critics.

South African farmers express concerns about potential violations of the Southern Africa Customs Union agreement.

The South African government has urgently requested a meeting with Botswana officials following the extension of the ban on fresh produce imports.

According to them, this ban extension, and the increase in restricted items until 2025 could potentially strain trade relations between the two countries, prompting the Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza to address any negative trade impacts in an upcoming bilateral meeting.

Other incentives to boost local productivity

The government of Botswana has taken several measures to increase local production of fresh produce.

To build resilience in food supply chains and reliable domestic production that will help improve food security and self-sufficiency, the government has developed an incentive package.

This package can be accessed through the National Development Bank (NDB) and includes an Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), seasonal loans, etc., to attract investors and to improve commercial viability in the sector.

In addition, the Integrated Support Program for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), was reviewed to address challenges facing farmers and the low productivity in the arable sub-sector. 

The components of the new program include cluster fencing, provision of potable water, seeds, and fertilizers, facilitation of access to credit, and establishment of Agricultural Service Centers across the country.

The fresh produce sector in Botswana is expected to grow in the coming years. According to Statista Market Forecast, the revenue in the fresh fruits market is expected to reach USD388.40m by 2023 and grow annually by 8.56% (CAGR 2023-2028). 

The volume of fresh fruits market is expected to amount to 211.80m kg by 2028, with volume growth of 4.4% in 2024. The average volume per person in the fresh fruit market is expected to amount to 69.9kg in 2023.

The fresh vegetables market in Botswana is also expected to grow. The market is projected to grow by 9.36% (2023-2028) resulting in a market volume of USD788.30m in 2028.

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