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Agricultural research vital for food security

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A consultant of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Birhanu Teshome says research on agriculture can help improve the declining contribution of agriculture in most African countries and reduce the food import bill. Teshome, who is the former President for Ethiopian Statistical Association told Business Trends that, African countries need to pay more attention to the declining figures on agriculture.

“Focus on agriculture is declining even the reporting on agriculture is declining. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to this if we want to improve food production and diversify the economy,” he said. He said, African countries need more research and provide quality statistics to relevant bodies- as this will help policy makers to make good decisions that will help improve food production.

“We need to produce food for own countries, but nowadays there is a shift on reliance as countries are now relying on processed food and this is not healthy for the economy. We need to look at the food we are importing and why are we importing them,” said Teshome.Agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Botswana declined to P347.50 million in the first quarter of 2017, from P363.50 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The current figures from Statistics Botswana indicate that agriculture’s contribution to GDP averaged P339.56 million from 2003 until 2017, reaching an all time high of P432.80 million in the second quarter of 2010 and; a record low of P182.80 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. However, agriculture contribution to GDP has been slowly declining from 40 percent in 1966 to the current three percent.

Cost of food in Botswana increased by 4.30 percent in June 2017. Food inflation in Botswana averaged 7.91 percent from 2002 to 2017, reaching an all time high of 25.11 percent in October 2008 and a record low of 0.70 percent in December 2015. Teshome also explained that agriculture statistics are affected by various challenges including climate change, lack of expertise and focus on mineral sector.

He said statisticians need to be trained in order to come up with quality statistics. “We rely much on agriculture so we need to have reliable statistics so we can have good estimates,” he said. Speaking during the Agriculture Statistics workshop last week, Statistician General Anna Majelantle said there are challenges regarding provision of quality statistics citing among-others lack of expertise and skills in specific sector statistics.

She said African National Statistics Offices and development partners continue to collaborate in the development and implementation of statistics frameworks to provide expertise and skills for the improvement of various sector statistics. “The training component of the Action Plan for Africa is currently being implemented by the African Centre for Statistics of the Economic Commission for Africa with the technical support from the African Working Group on statistical training and human resources,” she said.

The Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics was established and endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2010. Its objective was to provide a framework that will help improve the availability and quality of statistics on agriculture and food security in the world.

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SMEs benefit from Consumer Fair growth

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The Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has applauded Botswana Consumer Fair’s continued efforts to improve small to medium enterprises’ linkages.

BITC Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile, when opening the fair, said the event has provided interactive forum for both local and foreign exhibitors. He said the shopping show has enabled manufacturers, wholesalers and traders to market their products directly to consumers, an alignment to government’s endeavors.

“As part of government intention, we continually encourage local sourcing by retailers and distributors,” said Olebile who is just few months into his new post. He further celebrated the growth of Botswana Consumer Fair over the years, attributing the expansion to quality of goods displayed at the previous shows.“Improved quality and increased variety of wares increases the interest of the visitors and makes them look forward to returning the following year,” said Olebile.

This year’s exhibitors at the 13th event still running under the banner: ‘It is more than just shopping’ have been drawn from Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Japan, India, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Consumer Fair is a flagship event for Fairgrounds Holdings and provides a platform for small medium enterprises (SMEs) from the different sectors of the economy to showcase and promote their products and services. In addition, the SMEs are expected to establish long term business linkages and promote local manufactured goods.Fairgrounds Holdings is already optimistic that the Fair immensely contribute to the socio-economic development of the country through supporting SMEs.

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‘Involve SMMEs in standards development’-Minister

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo appealed to Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) to include the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) when developing the standards to improve the sector.

She said the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has identified three areas of focus going forward which are modeled on SMME development, investment promotion and export development apexes. “I would like to implore you to include this sector in standards development processes and assist in improving SMMEs conformity to standards and compliance to technical regulations,” said Kenewendo.

Speaking during the BOBS Technical Committee Members appreciation ceremony on Thursday, Kenewendo explained that the important roles of standards are underpinned by the aspirations and intentions espoused in both diversified export led economic growth and job creation as priority areas. “It goes without saying that the diversification of the economy requires a National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework that promote competitiveness of Botswana goods and services.”

She also emphasized that an effective National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework are essential as they provide crucial links to global trade, market access and export competitiveness through their contribution to consumer confidence in product safety, quality and the environment.Since inception in 1997 BOBS has published more than 1700 standards through 48 technical committees across several sectors of the economy; 109 certification licences have been issued against some of these standards. Currently 46 Botswana Standards are being implemented through the standards regulations with a view to protecting the health and safety of consumers as well as protection of the environment.

On her note, BOBS Vice Chairperson of the Standards Council, Professor Edward Dintwa said standards are powerful tools for helping organisations that implement them to realize their potential, have access and compete in the global marketplace. “In this highly competitive and complex world, issues of sustainability and productivity, viewed from economic, environmental and societal perspectives require that businesses must be more efficient in their operations, which can be achieved through the implementation of standards”.

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