Botswana banned SA fruit and veg. Now traders there are demanding a U-turn.

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A man sorts cabbage, filling large container with fresh cabbage in vegetable factory.

A man sorts cabbage, filling large container with fresh cabbage in vegetable factory.
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  • Batswana traders are asking their government to reconsider its importation ban on essential fruit and vegetables.

  • South Africa exports large quantities of onions, potatoes, and cabbages to Botswana.

  • Now the ban has left Botswana undersupplied, according to produce traders in that country, as per the Sunday Standard.

  • Instead of blocking imports completely, they request the government to allow at least 30% of fruit and vegetable commodity imports.

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A short supply of fresh produce in Botswana has left traders pleading with their government to allow them to get produce from South Africa and others again, following the Tswana nation’s decision to instate an import ban on certain commodities, the Sunday Standard reported.

Instead of closing off the borders completely, Batswana traders and representatives of small-scale traders are requesting that the government reconsiders its importation ban policy to allow them to import at least 30% of vegetable and fruit commodities, it reported.

Bostwana earlier this year halted imports of certain produce from South Africa, including tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chilli peppers, butternut, watermelons, sweet peppers, green mealies, and fresh herbs.

Its rationale was to protect its local agricultural sectors, decrease its P9.2 billion (R12 billion) yearly import bill and boost horticultural competitiveness; but the little supply of produce it is now left with is being absorbed by big chains, with most farmers reserving contracts to supply them, per the Sunday Standard.

This has left out small greengrocers and traders, who have now written to the president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, in a petition against the policy, lamenting that local producers have not been able to meet the demand for most of the barred commodities.

South Africa exports large volumes of fruit and vegetables to countries in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) region, with Bostwana making up a considerable share.

Between 2017 and 2021, South Africa’s annual potato exports to the global market averaged R705 million, and R108 million was for Botswana, according to a report by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).

Onions, the second largest vegetable commodity South Africa exports to the other countries on the continent, averaged R447 million per year, and R43 million for Botswana. Onion exports to Botswana and Namibia, another country that has banned some imports, have grown 22% between the two nations in four years.

“Botswana and Namibia accounted for 32% of cabbage exports, 27% of potatoes, 25% of tomatoes, 11% of carrots, and 9% of onions,” writes Thabile Nkunjana and Sifiso Ntombela at NAMC.