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‘Don’t burn bridges’ – South Africa to Botswana after it ban import of more fresh produce

The Botswana government's decision to expand restriction on fresh produce has caused panic among South African farmers and government officials after the drought-prone Southern African country announced it's restricting the imports of fresh produce from the country as it tries to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill.

By Mosa Cibi

Early this week (Monday December 4), the Ministry of Agriculture Botswana issued a press statement indicating restrictions on the following products; potatoes, cabbage, beetroot, onion, garlic, water melon, however that’s only mentioning a few of them.

The number of restricted items would also double to 32 from July 2024, the ministry added. These will include pumpkin, butternut, sweet potato, cauliflower, baby marrow, green peas, green beans, okra and egg plant. Many of these products were due to resume trade in 2024, however the Botswana has extended that restriction on agricultural trade to the year 2025.

This has led the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in the Sixth Administration Cabinet under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa to request an urgent sit down with her counterparts from the landlocked neighbors.

The South African Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza has particularly raised concern about the restrictions on agricultural imports from South Africa by the Botswana government. “While we understand the Botswana’s side that they’ll want to grow their horticulture sector and be able to be self-sufficient, what we are saying is ‘it shouldn’t be done in a manner that affects agricultural trade in the region’,” Minister Didiza said in an interview with ENCA.

“In our view, the long-term objective from the Botswana government is obviously not only to produce for food security. It’s also being able to become competitive in trade. Therefore if that’s the intention, it’s also important to make sure that you do not ban the bridges with your neighbour who’s likely to be your trade partner in the future. So let’s rather look at a win-win situation that can satisfy the concerns and interests of Botswana, and similarly the concerns and interests of South African producers,” the Minister added.

The Minister also indicated that she is seeking an urgent meeting with her Botswana counterpart to deliberate further on this matter. More details to follow.

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