Batswana to pay more for food in 2018


The price for sorghum meal, maize meal, bread and other basic food commodities in Botswana is expected to increase significantly this year. This follows recent data which shows that the country could be forced to import more food from the international market due to decline in ploughing during the season which ended in February 2018.
Recent data from the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security shows that in 2018, farmers in Botswana managed to plough 42 800 hectares compared to 167 562 hectares in the previous ploughing season.
In an interview with Gazette Business this week, Motswedi Securities economic analyst Garry Juma indicated that due to decline in ploughing and projected decline in domestic food production in the country, food imports are expected to rise resulting with increase in food import bill. “It is the changes in the food import bill which will have a profound impact on local prices, therefore it is important to assess the effects of the drought on the country’s food import bill,” he said. Juma explained that imminent increase in transport costs and import tariffs could majorly influence food prices in the country. “Given that we are going to import most of our foods, any increases in transport costs will have a bearing on the cost of transporting the food.  Increase in import tariffs especially on food will also exert pressure on imported food products,” he pointed out.
Juma stated that basic commodities such as maize, sorghum and wheat which could be imported from overseas due to projected decline in domestic food production, could feel the upward pressure in prices. It has emerged that following the projected decline in local production, Botswana government and food producing companies could import increased amount of sorghum, maize and wheat from the regional and international market and the costs of transporting the imports from the outside market are expected to result with high cost of food including sorghum meal, maize meal, bread and other related food stuff.
Observers and research institutions in agriculture and food security issues have indicated that since South Africa and other neighbouring countries which are Botswana’s major supplier of food, are highly likely to record decline in crop production Botswana could be forced to import sorghum, maize and wheat from as far as United States, Mexico, Ukraine, Brazil and Australia.
According to recent figures from Food Agricultural Organization (FAO), Botswana’s cereal imports from the international market are expected to increase from 350 000 tons recorded last year, to around 416 thousand tons. “More than 90 percent of the domestic cereal requirements are satisfied by imports and the country’s imports on average about 375 000 tons of cereals, mainly wheat per year. In 2018 the country’s reliance on imports, is likely to increase moderately following the expected decline in cereal production,” said FAO Botswana Director Dr. Chimimba Phiri.
FAO has projected that total cereal production is expected to decline by 78 percent from 94 000 tons in 2017 to 21 000 tons this year. Recent figures from the  organization show that maize production is expected to decline by 78 percent from 45 000 tons recorded last year, to 10 000 tons this year while sorghum yields are anticipated to fall by 80 percent from 41 000 tons recorded in 2017 to 8 000 tons in 2018. Millet yields are forecasted to decline 67 percent from 6 000 tons to 2 000 tons this year, while other crop yields could drop by 50 percent from 2 000 tons to 1000 tons.
SADC research department on food security has indicated that Botswana could be forced to import overseas, as latest results show that neighbouring countries which were expected to meet Botswana’s food deficit, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa Zam­bia and Zimbabwe recorded severe crop failure.