Costly bill recorded for the month of August 2021
Total imports amounted to an P8.6 billion in August
Economist urges Govt to unlocks agricultural value
Latest food import bill figures by Statistics Botswana (SB) suggests that the country’s food bill stood at P813,132,970.2 in August 2021, contributing 9.3% to total imports bill of P8, 698,179,306.5.
Cereals, according to Statistics Botswana, accounted for 16.3 percent of food imports followed by sugars and sugar confectionary and preparations of cereals with 11.1 percent and 9.2 percent respectively.
“The most imported types of Cereals during this period were maize (corn), other than seed with contribution of 45.8 percent followed by rice, semi-milled or wholly milled, whether or not polished or glazed at 23.2 percent. Sugars; cane sugar, raw, in solid form, not containing added flavouring or colouring matter contributed 71.3 percent while sugar confectionery; (excluding chewing gum, including white chocolate), not containing cocoa presented 21.2 percent to sugars , sugar confectionary,” said Statistics Botswana.
In an interview, economic analyst Dr Mosimane Rammika said the August food import bill rose to P813 million because the country has not yet developed its agricultural sector to the level of reducing the high bill.
He said when Botswana attained its independence in 1966 the agricultural sector was highly productive and stood as the mainstay of the economy.
“Slowly this diminished; as Botswana was still educating its people to take over from foreign nationals who were skilled in certain critical positions and this made sense because people got attracted to certain critical positions important for the transitional success. Agriculture and other sectors were neglected as Botswana started from zero with workforce shortage for transition. The country faced many infrastructural development needs, capital-intensive machineries, and food production needs as well as educational facilities and scholarship demands,” said Rammika.
That being the case, he said diamonds revenue as well as an international aid rescued Botswana and resources were channelled to meeting key needs of the economy. He regretted that procrastination happened in expanding revenue streams.
Meanwhile, Dr Rammika welcomed pronouncement by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in 2021 SONA that Government has adopted a new arable agricultural programme, which will replace the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture (ISPAAD).
“This is a positive statement from the SONA 2021 and the government will drive the reduction of import bill by reducing the import bill, especially the above top five, which contribute over 53 per cent of the Import bill. We have a number of silos planned for increment and the Government recognising the food deficit of over 60 per cent,” he said.
He said as the government is identifying key sectors, one will assume it will address the key sectors that we seem to have the ability to resource in a short space of time and identify key expenditure in the import bill, adding that some of those are animal edible products among others.
“One may only be worried by capacity constraints and implementation capacity in the part of government given the fact that some of the projects reported on the last SONA 2020 feedback not included in the current SONA 2021. Aggravating the worry is that the issue has not been addressed as key component of the SONA address 2021 as the main deterrent of economic growth and employment creation. It is urgent to attend to the issue in achieving the economic stimulation and growth,” he added.
Dr Rammika said food security and other key economic sectors identified by Government can be achieved through concerted efforts that address red tapes in implementation as well as timelines of the deliverables for effective measurement of progress in the 2022 SONA.