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Transportation a major setback for Botash

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Transportation costs remains a major challenge for the business operations of Botswana Ash (Botash), management has said. 

Unlike other commodities whose pricing is dictated by the volatile global market conditions, Botash Operations Manager Kangangwane Phatshwane explained that market conditions are not so much a factor for their product. However, this is not to suggest that they are immune to market conditions.

“We do not experience price escalations unlike with other commodities of copper and nickel as it has been observed lately. The most challenging aspect in Botash is transportation.” Phatshwane said last week in Sowa Town where Botash had hosted the local media.

Transporting their product to the market is very costly. “We spend P300million to the South to transport soda ash and coarse salt per annum and this impact on our profit margins every year,” added Managing Director Montwedi Mphathi.

This amount is shared between Botswana Railways and South Africa’s Transnet, he explained. Road transport, said Mphathi, costs economies a lot of money more than it can be imagined. Botash uses road transport to transport their product to the North.

As part of the company’s strategic themes, Botash will look into the supply chain and logistics capability to optimise its existing supply chain and design a market strategy with logistics channels in mind. 

Part of the company’s project in line with the theme; is to accessible to customers and develop pre-packs for the market. Mphathi said they are currently concluding warehousing and delivery options in this area. Botash is also looking to set Zambia as a hub to make products readily accesible to customer and develop pre-packacks for the market.

In another development, Botash is looking to develop a new customer base in Sub Saharan Africa for soda ash and salt. The targeted markets are Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola and DRC and the existing South Africa.

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Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft

The MidweekSun Admin

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Botswana Railways CEO, Louis Makwinja

Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.

Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.

There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”

The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”

During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.

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Calls to improve crop yields with technology

Keikantse Lesemela

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Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.

Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.

Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.

She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.

Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.

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