Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Statement by H.H. the Vice President at the Official Opening of the Mahalapye Sub-District Agriculture Show
9 August 2008

Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude to the Show Committee for the invitation to perform this, the official opening of the 2008 Mahalapye Sub-District Show. I am pleased to be here today to witness, first hand, how the Sub-District is gearing itself to meaningfully contribute to our national economic diversification efforts. As the Chinese proverb says; "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Events like this one are critical to the achievement of our overall national development goals. Allow me, Director of Ceremonies, to commend the Show Committee for their selfless spirit of voluntarism and above all, for their patriotism and commitment which delivered the excellent arrangements for this Show. I am reliably informed that the objectives of the 2008 Mahalapye Sub-District Show are:

  • To promote elements and spirit of competitiveness among the exhibitors so as to enhance the production of high quality products.
  • To act as a forum for exchange and transfer of information especially on the use of the most appropriate technologies.
  • To provide an opportunity for the business community to network, learn from each other and share skills.
These objectives provide a framework through which we can, as a Sub-District, contribute to efforts to enhance national productivity and Botswana's competitiveness in the world. Botswana's development is a national enterprise. It cannot be the responsibility of Government alone. Its success or failure will depend on how different stakeholders at the national, district and sub-district levels are prepared to effectively contribute towards the implementation of Government development plans and strategies. I am therefore heartened that this Show is a clear manifestation of the Mahalapye Sub-District's commitment in that direction.

I welcome the choice of the theme "Trade Diversification: A Window for Global Competitiveness" for this 2008 Mahalapye Sub-District Show. It is in line with the theme of NDP 9 which is: "Towards Realisation of Vision 2016: Sustainable and Diversified Development through Competitiveness in Global Markets." Within the framework of Vision 2016 and NDP 9 the Government has taken deliberate and concerted efforts to grow the economy and diversify it away from heavy dependence on mineral resources. In this endeavour we are guided by the need and desire for employment creation and poverty alleviation.

The development of the agricultural sector is necessary and indispensable to our success. You will recall that at independence over 40 years ago, agriculture contributed significantly to the Gross Domestic Product and to the livelihood of the majority of our population. Regrettably, due to a variety of factors such as recurrent droughts, livestock diseases, lack of appropriate technology and the emergence and growth in other sectors, that contribution has since dwindled. That notwithstanding, agriculture remains the mainstay of our economy. It is a source of employment and income for most of the rural households in this country.

Government recognizes the vitality of agriculture to the livelihood of Batswana and the prosperity of our economy. The escalating food prices worldwide which have also affected Botswana requires us to scale up agricultural productivity in our country. Government is doing all it can to provide the necessary support for farmers to produce more food in order that we can reduce the amount we import from other countries. This is demonstrated by the special efforts we are currently making to boost the meat, cereal and horticultural sectors.

Regarding the beef industry I want to inform you that the Government has negotiated with the European Union to continue to allow Botswana beef preferential access to their markets. This access is now quota and tariff free, and the prices have improved quite significantly. The Botswana Meat Commission has also improved its incentives, including increasing prices offered to farmers to encourage them to improve their stock and to sell more to the abattoir.

For instance, the BMC has introduced a Premium Price Scheme which offers producers an additional P2.00 (two pula) per kilogram for all cattle eligible for export to the European Union market. I therefore encourage farmers to take advantage of this scheme by getting their cattle into good condition before selling to the BMC in order to obtain maximum benefit. As you may also know, the Botswana Meat Commission has opened regional offices in some districts, including in Mahalapye. Undoubtedly, this has brought BMC closer to the farmers.

As I stated during the official opening of the Mahalapye BMC branch office last year, these regional offices will allow farmers to apply for quotas, collect information on BMC schemes, get support in sourcing transport and permits as well as to collect their cheques after selling cattle to the abattoir. Let me take this opportunity to once again encourage farmers to make full use of the BMC regional office in this sub district.

I would like to say something about poultry. Government has been concerned that in spite of efforts made to support this sector it has experienced a decline and therefore undermined national efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in poultry products. Part of the problem was that the small poultry producers could not successfully penetrate the local market due to some restrictions such as Halal requirements. I am happy to inform you that the Government continues to negotiate with the chain supermarkets that purchase poultry products to relax these restrictions. And I am glad that the Choppies Group which has over 40 supermarkets countrywide has responded positively. I would like to urge others to follow the example set by the Choppies Group.

Vegetable producers will also be glad to know that Government is also planning to establish Horticultural market places as a way of encouraging growth of this sector. It is important that we work hard towards achieving self-sufficiency in vegetable production.

With regard to cereal production and in line with the need to respond to the looming food crisis, Government has taken measures to increase the grain reserve from the current 10 000 to 30 000 metric tones for sorghum and maize. This reserve is meant to ensure that food grains are available from the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) to consumers in the event of serious shortage from commodity suppliers and local producers. I am pleased to inform farmers that BAMB has improved its prices of major cereals such as sorghum, maize, millet and beans. For example, between March and August this year the prices of the following cereals, among others, have increased as follows:

  • a bag of sorghum from P67.50 to P92.50
  • a bag of maize from P70.00 to P89.00
  • a bag of beans from P250.00 to P350.00
This should indeed be an encouragement to farmers to produce more to take advantage of the good prices and to help address problems of food shortage.

We have terminated ALDEP, with effect from June 30 this year and replaced it with the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Development (ISPAAD). ALDEP had to be discontinued because it had serious deficiencies and we do not have much to show for it. The new programme is designed to assist farmers with the following:

  1. Fencing:
    • Government will construct fences around a cluster of fields of at least 150 hectares.
    • Construction will be through labour intensive programme which will be provided by the farmers themselves.
    • Farmers will be responsible for the maintenance of the fences.

  2. Provision of potable water:
    • Government will drill and equip boreholes for clusters.
    • Water will only be for household purposes.
    • The boreholes will be handed over to cluster committees to manage.

  3. Provision of seeds:
    • Government will provide farmers with free seeds to plant up to a maximum of 16 hectares.
    • Additional seeds required will receive a 50% subsidy.

  4. Provision of fertilizers:
    • Government will provide free fertilizers for up to 5 hectares.
    • A subsequent 50% subsidy will be provided up to a maximum of 16 hectares.

  5. Facilitation of access to credit:
    • Farmers will access seasonal loans from National Development Bank (NDB).
    • These will be charged at prime rate.

  6. Agricultural Service Centres:
    • Government will establish agricultural service centres closer to arable production zones.
    • The centres will provide tractors, seeds and fertilizers.

  7. Ploughing and planting subsidy:
    • Government will plough and plant a maximum of 5 hectares for free for each farmer.
    • Government will then provide a 50% subsidy to plough and plant up to 16 hectares.
    • Government will contract private tractor owners to plough and plant for farmers.
May I in this regard encourage tractor owners to register them with the relevant department. I want to urge field owners to fully de-bush and de-stump their fields in readiness for the next ploughing season.

We have also taken a deliberate decision to strengthen our agricultural extension services so that our farmers can be serviced more effectively.

Citizen Economic Empowerment and Import Substitution are two of the key priorities of this Government. I am pleased to inform you that Government has taken the initiative to support local manufacturers and entrepreneurs. This entails creating conducive conditions for producers of a wide variety of products such as bread and school uniforms to supply their local market without unnecessary external competition. Moreover, the Government has issued a directive to all Government Ministries, departments and parastalals to purchase decorative artefacts and crockery from local manufacturers. This is a demonstration of Government's unflinching commitment to promote sustainable economic development and self-sufficiency. These programmes are meant for you! I therefore urge all of you to take advantage and utilize them productively if we are to succeed in achieving our overall national development goals. Indeed experience elsewhere has shown that no nation can rely on foreign investment alone to create a sustainable economic base.

Any success in our national development efforts demands a genuine partnership between the government, private sector, including foreign investors, as well as citizens that are committed to playing their part. We should not tolerate a situation where people exist only for statistical purposes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have visited the stalls and was delighted to see a significant number of women entrepreneurs displaying their products. I have no doubt in my mind that this Show provides an opportunity and platform for our women folk to market their products and demonstrate dedication to play their part in the development of the Sub-District and the country at large. The enterprising nature of our women and mothers is a sign of their resilience and ability to provide required leadership and face the future with confidence. This is hardly surprising because over the years women have been susceptible to all the social ills and prejudices that beset our society.

I can only assure them that in their endeavour to respond to these challenges they have the full support of Government. In this respect the Government will continue to be conscious of the gender dimension when specific assistance programmes are extended to micro enterprises. We all know that if women could find a niche market for their products and services we will be better placed to succeed in our national efforts to address the challenges of poverty.

Industrialization of this sub-region is a challenge. It requires all of us to put our hands on the deck. Government continues to encourage investors to set up industries in semi-urban and rural areas to create employment opportunities. In this regard, I am happy to inform you that we have agreed with a local company to open a cement manufacturing factory at Lose, 15 kilometres north of Mahalapye. This is a welcome investment for this region. The factory is expected to create up to 200 direct jobs.

It is now my pleasure to declare this show officially opened. PULA!

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