TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Botswana Has Potential For Commercial Agriculture

Monday, 30 October 2006

Source: Mnengi Business Week (Botswana)

Rom Smet, Managing Director of Hortulus - a Gaborone-based vegetable farm - said on Friday that there is potential for commercial agriculture in Botswana despite the hostile climatic conditions.

"By using a technique suitable for Botswana, farming can bring money," Smet said at an agribusiness forum organised by the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). He explained that vegetable and greenhouse agriculture, as carried out by his company, has never been done at the commercial level in Botswana before.

"But despite the climate and high input costs, there is potential," he said. Smet was concerned that wholesale demand for agricultural products are still sourced from South Africa and advised local producers to strive for excellence.

He said for local produce to be recognised when retailers make procurement decisions, the producers need to produce something fresh and of high quality.

"We have to make something that they (retailers) would remember us by when they make orders. Freshness is important and it is important to choose a location that will allow you to deliver freshness," Smet said.

On her part, Dr Seja Maphanyane, the Director for Department of Agricultural Research at the Ministry of Agriculture said that for agriculture to be commercial ,there are a host of changes that need to be made.

Some of the new changes that have to be looked at include the need for value addition - that farmers know the rules of international trade organisations like World Trade Organisation (WTO), ACP-EU Partnerships and Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Equally, Maphanyane said niche markets need to be established for unknown products because currently farmers are more into cereal production, like sorghum.

"We must start looking outside the box from something that looks familiar," she said adding that the future of commercial agriculture would come from innovation. She said that agriculture, as a commercial venture, would need organised markets, modern technologies and pro-agriculture policies.

Another speaker at the forum, Monty Chiepe, said that agricultural producers should organise themselves into associations in order to strategise as a unit.

"If we do not do that, we are likely to run in circles. With organisations, we can target markets like AGOA to target other products eligible under AGOA," Chiepe said adding that Botswana qualifies for more 6,000 products, but the country only exports textiles. Other farmers were concerned that Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) as a monopoly denies them the chance to penetrate the South African market.

The farmers were also concerned that with this monopoly they might reach saturation with their piggery and poultry products because of lack of the exporting mandate.

However, they were advised that government is working on a law that will look at the monopoly that will allow farmers to export to South Africa. The farmers also complained that another problem facing the agricultural sector is the red tape at the Ministry of Agriculture as the officials do things at their own pace.

The farmers gave an example of the new law that would allow farmers to export to other markets that is coming to Parliament after 12 years of lobbying.

Other farmers also suggested that Botswana needs a bank that is dedicated to agriculture although they were informed that the National Development Bank (NDB) does focus on agriculture.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Botswana’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.