Horticulture farmers call for value chain development

Horticulture farmers lose over 65 percent of their produce due to lack of value chains upstream and downstream, a Board Member of Farmers United, Moses Moloi, has said.

“Our produce is rotting because we don’t have processing facilities that will prevent produce from being wasted," Moloi said, adding that the youth of the country should take advantage of this market gap and create an additional value chain.

He emphasised the need for value chain in the horticulture industry to promote growth and satisfy the national demand. At present farmers are unable to meet national demand because of various factors including seasonal production and lack of access to funding.

“As a nation we don’t have proper collaboration of farmers, we work as individuals and this compromises sustainable growth of the industry,” Moloi said.

The local demand for potatoes is 619 hectares but local farmers produce 297ha, tomatoes demand is 133 hectares, while production is at 54ha, onion demand is 452 hectares while production is 249ha. However, maize is currently fully supplied with demand equalling production at 638 hectares.

Government imposed a vegetable import ban in January 2022 and to date the ban has reduced the import bill by about 71 percent. Botswana, together with Namibia, extended the ban from December 2023 deadline to 2025.

The number of products will double to 32, from July 2024. South Africa supplied about 80 percent of the country's food before the ban was initially imposed.

Moloi stated that one of the major problems affecting the horticulture industry is retail shops sabotage.

“The retail shops are saying there is shortage of supply but this is not true because they don’t buy all our produce. What happens is that they place orders of certain quantities but upon delivery they reduce the amount then we will be forced to return with those products and we end up selling at a loss.”

He said government needs to set up policies that guide farmers, as well as address competition issues.

“We need to get to a point where we set up policies that support the bona-fide Motswana so that we can protect our farmers. Government must understand how policy shifts encourage competition.”

Responding to questions from the participants during the FNBB national Budget Review, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Chief Executive Officer, Thabo Thamane said the horticulture business industry is affected by man-made dynamics which are deliberately created by large retailers.

“The issue of low supply which is coming from large retailers is not true. We are currently experiencing trade wars that are deliberately created so that small scale producers will not be able to grow.”

Sefalana Group Finance Director, Mohamed Osman said they experienced a shortage of fruits and vegetables on an intermittent basis for some time now.

“With borders closed, we are dependent on local farmers being able to produce appropriate quantities of produce at the right quality. This varies from farmer to farmer, so there are times where there simply is not enough to fulfil the market’s demand. In the past, the shortfall would be imported.”

He said Sefalana buys both grain and fresh produce from about 800 local farmers.

“Retailers are supporting more and more farmers all the time. If quality is not at the right level however, retailers will not be comfortable with putting their produce on the shelves.

“This is normal supply and demand. Customers will not demand produce at below acceptable standards.”