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Farmers fear bleak harvest ahead

Keikantse Lesemela

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Farmers are facing a bleak harvest season following poor rainfalls which are likely to lead to stunted growth of crops in most parts of the country.

Last week the Business Trends met with farmers in Kanngwe who expressed their hopeless expectations to harvest this year. Masego Ofentse said she planted a 50 hectare field but two thirds of the crops have wilted due to extreme high temperatures. She planted maize, sorghum and black eye beans. “I am not going to get food from this field, almost all the crops have been affected by extreme heat therefore they failed to produce food.

This is a bad year for us,” said a downbeat Ofentse. Meanwhile, John Phirinyane planted 320 hactares of maize in an 800 hactare field but all the crops could not pollinate. “I planted a lower portion this year because I realised there is insufficient rainfall. All these crops in the field are not going to yield harvest, it’s a huge loss,” said Phirinyane.

Gofaone Mapitse ploughed 405 hacters in a 600 hactare field and he is expecting only 20 percent harvest from the field. He said this year he ploughed in lower ration due to lack of resources and insufficient rainfall.

“This year the banks could not give us loans because we still have arrears from last year. We are negotiating with the government to help us clear the arrears” Mapitse said last year the government paid 85 percent to banks and farmers only paid 15 percent but this year the government only gave them 30 percent.

Each year, government spends about P600 million on the agricultural inputs programme for citizen farmers and in the last four years about P800 million was spent on drought relief initiatives. Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia has told the media that experts are still finalising estimates of the harvest, but already they reckon farmers will get only 40 percent or less of what they planted this season. “Even more worrying is that major producing areas like Pandamatenga and Mosisedi have not been spared by the poor rains.

There was a time at the beginning of the season when we thought things would be good, but now if you see what’s happening across our districts, you would be quite shocked.Most of the crops planted are stunted and already showing signs of wilting,” said Ralotsia.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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