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Budget allocation to agric falls short

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A Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) Agronomist, Lambani Obuseng says the P1.34 billion allocated to Agriculture in the 2018/19 National Budget is not enough to support the sector. Speaking at the First National Bank (FNB) Budget Review Seminar, a day after Minister Kenneth Matambo’s Budget Speech, Obuseng said the P1.34 billion, which represents only three percent of the budget allocation is worrisome as it falls way short, if the sector is to grow to another level. In his view, Botswana has veered off the resolutions of the 2003 Maputo African Union Summit that urged African countries to commit at least 10 percent of national budget allocations to support the Agriculture sector.

“This is the sector that contributed 40 percent to the GDP at independence, but now only two percent. What went wrong?” Obuseng quizzed. He acknowledged that although there have been several agricultural programmes geared towards supporting the sector; there is need to first do thorough research before any policy formulation. “We might be coming up with programmes that are not what the country needs,” he said.

Among the operational challenges that hamper local output and exacerbate the dwindling performance of the sector, Obuseng cited the low adoption of technologies by farmers, stating that currently farmers use the simplest traditional methods of farming despite the vigorous changes in technology over the years. Obuseng added that effects of climate change resulting in floods; low levels of rain can no longer be ignored. Another challenge that local farmers are faced with is poor infrastructure – roads and communication, especially in production areas. If not attended to these hurdles could further hamper the sector. Obuseng also identified; poor soil fertility, labour shortages, and low productivity that lead to high per unit production costs as some of the challenges impeding agriculture. He said Botswana needs to adopt and implement better ways of supporting the agriculture sector.

Among his recommendations is the adoption of precision agriculture that goes a long way in reducing waste using satellite maps, computers to match seeds and fertilisers. He also recommends the use of drones, which could aid with planning and strategy based on real time data gathering and processing. Drones can also be used to analyse soils, crop monitoring, crop spraying, and health assessments among other things. According to Obuseng, the use of drones in other jurisdictions has proved to increase efficiency by 85 percent. In response to the budget allocation, General Manager of Clover Botswana, Mike Joyner said it is disappointing to realise that even though the SADC Integration Strategy identifies Agro processing as a potential money-spinner in the region, there has not been much effort to support the sector. “I acknowledge that the private sector has a big role to play, but the three percent would not do much,” Joyner said, adding, “how much engagement is made before the final budget allocation?”

His view is that financiers are often apprehensive to release funds in subsectors like dairy, which are high risk and daunting. “There are opportunities and the private sector is ready to work with government in ensuring that the sector performs well.” Business Development expert, Donald Maika of African Emerging Ventures said at the seminar that the biggest challenge is that farmers still shy away from pursuing agriculture as a business. He challenged the private sector to come up with supporting products that can revive and sustain the agriculture sector. “There are opportunities for the private sector to play a role in agriculture. We need to drive this sector through providing equity to agribusiness,” Maika said. He also believes that local investment companies need to do something to change the fortunes of the sector, which in turn could attract international investors.

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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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