The Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaf last week told farmers at the 2013 Agriculture show that the requirements of international markets are becoming more stringent due to the demands of modern day consumers. He was speaking at a trade show held last week in Gaborone for farmers and stakeholders in the farming industry.
“It is therefore extremely important to pay attention to issues of compliance. In this regard, keeping farm records is no longer an option but a necessity. A farmer must know what pesticide was used on the crop and on what day. A farmer must know what drug he used on his animals and when. Quality standards must also be observed,” he advised.
The Minister further said that the agriculture sector has recorded growth over the past few years. “Last year, we realised growth in horticulture, honey production and sheep and goat meat production. Local horticulture production increased from 36, 201 tons in 2010/11 to 41, 000 tons in 2011/12. Honey production increased from 13 tons in 2010/11 to 14.2 tons in 2011/12 and the number of small stock (sheep and goats) slaughtered at municipal abattoirs increased from 13, 986 in 2011 to 26, 126 in 2012,” he added.
The Botswana Meat Commission slaughter figures, he said, also increased from 80, 087 cattle in 2011 to 112, 841 cattle in 2012. “These few examples though still below our capacity, confirm that the agriculture subsector is growing,” he said.
Despite the above, the agriculture sector is still faced with various challenges such as disease and pest outbreaks. There are other service delivery challenges such as LITS, and livestock feeds challenges amongst others.
Tshepo Masire, a farmer in the Ngwaketse South expounded on the challenges that continue to hamper their efforts to develop in the agriculture sector. Masire, who is a stud producer pointed the finger at climate change as one of their major concerns, saying that the rainfall patterns have changed and this has affected production rates. He was also worried by lack of infrastructure development in the farming areas and lack of market facilities.
“Although there a few internal roads and telecommunication, we need power so that we are able to produce fodder. We need internet and computers and these need power,” he said.
Speaking on the event, Debswana Managing Director Jim Gowans has called for a joint venture between government and the private sector to continue with the hosting of more agricultural trade shows. “The government alone cannot solve the problems bedeviling the agricultural sector. To this end, I am pleased to note that over the years, different companies have pledged different forms of assistance towards the running of the show ranging from cash donations, equipment and other items that contribute to make the show a success,” he said.
Gowans, whose company pledged P700, 000 sponsorship, hastened to caution that the onus is on farmers to give confidence and reason for the private sector to continue investing in agriculture.
The show, which ended on Sunday, was this year held under the theme “Transforming Agriculture in the wake of climate change”. This is the same theme under which the event was held last year and it will also be used for next year’s show (2014).