In a bid to bolster self-sufficiency and curb reliance on imports, Botswana has extended its ban on various fresh produce imports, sparking ire and discord with neighbouring South Africa.
Botswana’s agricultural ministry announced an extension of the ban on imports, including tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and a range of other produce, prolonging the restriction until the close of 2025. Furthermore, the list of restricted items is set to double to 32 by July next year.
The ministry justified the extension, citing the need to offer local farmers an opportunity to cultivate and produce, signalling a grace period until July for the local produce to become readily available.
The move, initially set to expire at the end of December, aims to foster self-sufficiency in a nation where the agricultural sector constitutes merely 5% of the economic output. Local farmers have long struggled against the influx of cheaper imports from South Africa, which previously accounted for approximately 80% of Botswana’s food supply.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, in a recent state of the nation address, hailed the ban for significantly slashing the country’s fresh-produce import bill by a staggering 71%.
However, the embargo has not been without contention. Mzansi farmers argue that the ban violates agreements within the Southern Africa Customs Union, sparking tensions between the neighbouring nations.
While Botswana maintains that it aims to nurture emerging industries, the discord between the nations over trade policies continues to escalate, raising concerns about the economic repercussions and the diplomatic strain between the two countries.