Big retailers still import seasonal vegetables and fruits
South Africa’s horticultural farmers continue to benefit immensely from Botswana’s inability to produce enough vegetables and fruits to satisfy the local demand.
Despite government’s efforts to come up with measures that could help the country to be self sufficient, big retailers still cross the border for their vegetables.
This according to some local farmers is because they produce at a low scale and are unable to meet the local demand.
Government has come with interventions like barring South African produce coming into the country for a certain period of time to allow locals to sell their local produce.
However this has proved a challenge to retailers as supply becomes sporadic and unreliable.
Keikantseng July operates a 4 hectare NAMPAAD farm in Dikabeya and produces cabbage, tomato, sweet pepper, onion and butternut.
Kanlee Fruit and Veg started operating in February 2015, and has had its fair share of market problems.
According to July often they are left with produce which they cannot sell anywhere as big retailers opt for South African vegetables.
She said although government interventions do help them, they sometimes work against them.
“Right now there’s shortage of cabbage and the borders are open, this means a few farmers with enough supply in the country are now competing with large scale producers from South Africa,” she said.
Kanlee farm which is leased from the Department of Lands boasts of clients such as Palapye and Serowe Spar supermarkets, Shoppers and hawkers in both Palapye and Serowe.
“We were lucky to have been under the wing of Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) who assisted us in accessing start up capital from CEDA Young Farmers Fund,” she said
July said despite LEA interventions like helping with market research, coaching and business monitoring their market locally is still not secure.
Ovine Farms (PTY) LTD is another citizen owned company registered in 2007. The family owned business in Letlhakane specialises in cabbage, tomato, spinach, rape and green pepper.
Their current clients include Choppies, Sefalana and hawkers in the Boteti region.
Co-owner Keneilwe Ramonameng also lamented the unreliable local market.
She says although they are well aware that they cannot meet the local demand due to their small scale production, she wishes that there was a way local farmers could be protected more.
LEA Communications Manager Wanetsha Mosinyi said they are aware of the challenges faced by horticulture farmers in the country.
In an interview with Voice Money, he said LEA liases with potential clients on behalf of farmers to help them
“We know that as individuals it’ll never be easy, that is why we go to this big retail shops to get a guarantee that our clients will be accorded the opportunity to trade,” he said.
Mosinyi further said they continuously lobby government to find ways they can assist farmers.
He said one of the biggest challenges is that most of the farmers are small and individually can never meet the market demand.
“That is why we encourage clusters. Individually farmers cannot meet the demand, but when they work together they can ensure a constant and reliable supply,” he said.
“The problem is most people prefer to work alone, which is unfortunate,” Mosinyi said.
The LEA Communications Manager said farmers should learn to take advantage of interventions by government.
He said whenever government decides to close the border to give local farmers monopoly of the market, they should take full advantage of it.
“Government will only close the border when there’s evidence that there is enough produce ready for sale,” said Mosinyi.
Mosinyi further said they have also come to realise that most of the big retailers usually stockpiles, and may have enough stock at a time when SA products have been frozen out.
“This means even if SA produce is frozen out for two weeks, locals can’t trade because the retailers would have stockpiled.
It is a loophole they use and at the moment there’s nothing we can do about,” Mosinyi said.