* To increase yield ready for export market

A high network citrus farming company located near Selibe Phikwe with a capital investment of P300 million is preparing more land where they will plant more fruit trees, increasing the number to one million.

The South African based company that uses high technology equipment has gone into partnership with the Mmadinare Cooperative Society who leased land to them for ploughing citrus fruits. The project itself is a moral boost for the SPEDU region or Greater Selibe Phikwe region where over 5000 jobs were lost following the closure of the mine in 2016.

The project stands to create 2 000 jobs, but currently has engaged over 1000 and many more are expected to benefit in different ways as its spinoffs among others will see Botswana being able to produce its own fresh juices.

Speaking about the progress made in agriculture during the State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi encouraged Batswana to take farming seriously and take advantage of schemes and, or programmes introduced by government.

Masisi said the agriculture sector continues to create more opportunities for food security, diversification of the economy and employment through the development of clusters and value chains.

The introduction of import restrictions on some vegetables and fruits to stimulate local production provided a huge market for Batswana. “I am aware that consumers continue to encounter challenges of under-supply and increased costs of some fruits and vegetables,” Masisi said.

He added that at times challenges of oversupply crop up which, while beneficial to the consumer in terms of price, negatively affect the producer. He believes that as the market matures, this will stabilise.

Masisi urged Batswana across the length and breadth of the country to take advantage of the new market opportunities for local produce and expand their production and value-addition.

"I implore wholesalers, retailers, and consumers to ensure compliance with the new policies of Government with a view to supporting and growing our farmers countrywide and, thus creating employment and putting money in many more households than before."

He said the country needs to make up for the current huge vegetable and fruit import bill and mature to export to other countries.

"We have spent too many years of post-colonial history of Botswana importing. It is about time we too enjoyed the benefits of exporting and earning hard foreign currency through vegetable and fruit production," he said.

Further, that a large-scale citrus project in Selebi Phikwe started in 2020 as a result of Foreign Direct Investment. For the first time, Botswana is expected to generate export revenue from high quality fruits to premium markets. To date, a total of 700 000 fruit trees have been planted and additional land is being prepared to accommodate a further 300 000 trees.

This investment is expected to also enhance the economic sustainability of the Mmadinare-based cooperative society.