Botswana delays meeting over SA vegetable import ban

Botswana has yet to respond to a meeting request from South African Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, regarding a controversial ban on vegetable and fruit imports. The ban, which South African farmers claim violates the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) agreements, has caused tension between the two countries. Botswana’s Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Fedelis Molao, confirmed that his office received the letter in October 2022 but has yet to schedule a meeting.

Ban aimed at supporting local producers
Botswana and Namibia implemented the ban on the importation of several fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce, in response to calls for protection from their citizens. The move was also intended to help local producers gain access to previously inaccessible markets. Fresh herbs, butternut, watermelons, maize, and sweet peppers are also on the list of banned products. The ban has allowed the local markets in Botswana and Namibia to grow rapidly.

Farmers’ federation voices concern
The ban has prompted concern from South African farmers and Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organizations. They argue that Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia (BELN), and South Africa are bound by the SACU agreement and are required to have a common external trade border with free flow of goods within the union.

Botswana unmoved
Botswana, which implemented the ban in conjunction with Namibia, seems uninterested in granting South Africa a meeting over the matter. On the other hand, South African farmers are pressuring their government to take action against Botswana and Namibia.
The situation has caused tension between the two countries, with no resolution in sight.