The Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Dr Edwin Dikoloti says the demand for Botswana beef in the global market has been very low due to the novel Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit hard on some lucrative markets that consume it in large quantities.
Dr Dikoloti made the sentiments in a joint ministerial press briefing in Gaborone on Thursday when he was sharing how his ministry will be providing services during the lockdown period. He said it is a given that the local beef sector will be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, however reassuring that there will be sufficient beef for local market.
Some of the nation state that are major consumers of Botswana beef such as South Africa, United Kingdom and Belgium are currently under restrictive Covid-19 lockdown. “Beef supply chains will continue to be fully operational during the 28 days state of emergency period. The ministry has decided not to discontinue the slaughtering of the cows but farmers should apply for the permit for movement of cattle to the slaughter points,” Dr Dikoloti said.
In addition, he revealed that stable beef production and trade can still continue locally with the local as meat inspection services will continue with high emphasis placed on safety measures.
Dikoloti further insisted that Botswana will be able to survive in during the 28 days lockdown in terms of availability of food saying BAMB Strategic Grain Reserve has enough sorghum produce.
According to him, food security is the most important thing that the ministry is concerned more about during and post coronavirus as the ministry will ensure there is enough food at all times.
“Government has decided to stop temporarily importation of horticulture products and this will open more opportunities for local famers to produce more and supply the market. We must not worry if the country will be able to have enough food because BAMB SGR is full,” said Dikoloti.
He revealed that the ministry will support the local horticulture sector such as empowering the New Agro-Processing Plant (NAPRO) in Selebi Phikwe as well as buying from small retailers too.
The permit for food import, he said, it will be taken from the ministry’s headquarters while the suspension of issuance of horticultural, cereals and import pulses will remain till further notice.
Some of the horticultural foodstuffs that are restricted by government for importation include butternuts, beetroots, green peppers and onions to mention but a few while cocktail tomatoes, watermelon and potatoes are restricted on 50% conditional local purchase and tomato on 70%.
He said a shortage of agriculture services such as feeding supplies for livestock could be fairly common across the country during the lockdown therefore agricultural services were deemed as essential asserting that ministry will put on place serious border inspection routine checks.
The ministry will also assist farmers under crop production department to fight the rampant outbreak of pests such as locusts that has invaded some parts of the country at the moment.
“We will ensure that the little harvest that will be amassed from the already damage caused by pest invasion will go to BAMB for storage,” he said urging farmers to report pests invasion fast.