SONA suggests renewed optimism for farmers
Despite the entirety of Southern Africa experiencing the most severe draught in twenty years, signs of Botswana’s agricultural sector experiencing resurgence are promising.
As outlined by the President in this week’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), a drought assessment tour conducted in February and May 2016 concluded that despite rainfall during the months of February and March, the rainfall had been poorly distributed and consequently a drought was declared for the entirety of the nation.
However, this has not drastically prohibited the agriculture sector, especially in terms of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which registered an increase in revenue of about 20.4%.
Beef exports have also increased by approximately 3000 tonnes taking the total exported beef to 9000 tonnes.
Optimism remains that exports can be further increased to 10 000 tonnes in the near future.
This at least, provides some glimmer of hope for cattle herders who will be buoyed by the news of increasing beef exports.
However, some pessimism must remain as production turnover in both BMC plants remains low subsequently resulting in greater losses.
Farmers listening to the SONA will also have been galvanised to hear that the dairy industry has a demand of 60 million litres while production only stands at 4.9 million litres.
This illustrates a deficit of 55.1 million litres which remains to be filled by increasing production.
This is to be facilitated by the already implemented dairy development strategy which focuses on increasing the number of milking cows, freeing up land for dairy investors and improving milk marketing through economic diversification drives.
It is however, perplexing for farmers to learn that even though the drought persists, the 25% livestock subsidy that has alleviated much of their burdens induced by the drought will come to an end before January 1st.
Alternative drought relief and special assistance measures will continue till 30th of June 2017 which may suggest that forecasts will be favourable by then but still doesn’t explain cutting the 25% subsidy while vigorously pursuing an Economic Diversification Drive which aims to increase cows for dairy purposes.
The end of the subsidy will perhaps affect farmers located south of the Central District, northern Kgatleng and the Kweneng Districts the most due to an increase in livestock mortalities caused by Parvetta.
The President was however quick to elucidate that many systems are in place to ensure the sustainability of the agriculture sector.
“In response to changing climatic conditions, Government is promoting Climate Smart Agriculture technologies such as Conservation Agriculture.
Government also continues to implement agricultural support schemes such as ISPAAD, LIMID, and the Agricultural Service Support Programme to promote food security.” He assured.