The Botswana Horticultural Market (BHM) has been closed down for being a drain on government finances and continuously failing to achieve set objectives.
The BHM was set up in 2008 by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security as a central horticultural produce regulatory and marketing agency where farmers could deliver directly to buyers and wholesalers.
The agency earned a 5% non-negotiable commission per farmer that used its facilities to grade and sell fresh produce. Agricultural Development and Food Security Ministry Public Relations Officer Boikhutsho Rabasha said the BMH had to cease operations because it has failed to attain financial self-sufficiency since inception.
The marketing agency also failed to achieve the main objective of promoting horticulture as a viable and export-oriented sub-sector of the farming industry.
“The market was not performing according to the objectives it was originally set up for. This closure will allow the (Botswana Horticultural Market) board to come up with a new strategy to benefit its stakeholders, especially farmers,” Rabasha said.
BAILOUTS AND IMPORT BANS
Since its inception in 2008, the BHM has largely subsisted on government bailouts to pay salaries, daily operating expenses and rentals for the offices and single warehouse it operated in Gaborone.
Rabasha said the government was keen to resuscitate the horticulture sector. She said the recent decision to restrict the importation of carrots, potatoes, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and beetroot was meant to promote local farmers.
The import ban affected South African farmers and produce merchants, who supply the bulk of Botswana’s agricultural commodity requirements. Presently, local farmers are only able to supply 6 720 tons out of the annual demand of 90 000 metric tons of fresh produce crops listed in the restricted import category.
In the 2016/’17 season, Botswana’s cereal farmers produced only 8 812 tons out of annual consumption demand of 300 000 tons. The shortfall is still being imported from South Africa.