Botswana food deficit widens

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Botswana food deficit widens

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Mpho Tebele

    Gaborone – A massive grain deficit in Botswana this year would impact negatively on food security in the country after El Nino-induced drought reduced the hectarage under cultivation by 75 percent in the just-ended ploughing season, Agriculture Minister Patrick Ralotsia told Parliament this week.  

    A ccording to Ralotsia, to date, only 42,800 hectares have been planted by 8,123 farmers compared to 167,562 hectares planted by 32,650 farmers during the 2016/17 season.

    “The low hectarage planted is attributed to low rainfall received during the season. In some parts of the country, crops planted are already showing signs of wilting due to lack of rainfall and high temperatures. 

    “Consequently, lower yields are anticipated considering the fact that the current weather conditions are harsh for crops to germinate successfully,” said the minister.

    According to Ralotsia for the 2016/17 cropping season, total production was 193,372 tonnes of which cereal production was 128,075 tonnes, an equivalent of 49 percent of the national cereal requirement (260,000 tonnes) and 60 percent of the national demand (320,000 tonnes) for rain-fed production.

    He said based on this scenario, it is evident that the country would have to augment the deficit through imports. 

    He said the just-ended 2017/18 ploughing season initially experienced high temperatures countrywide and relatively low and sporadic rains.

    Ralotsia said Botswana was likely to experience a “severe food deficit as in some parts of the country crops planted are already showing signs of wilting”.

    “Thus fewer hectares have been cultivated and worse-off most of the crops have been destroyed by the excessive heat. If the temperatures do not improve during the remaining part of the ploughing season, the country is likely to experience severe food deficit,” Ralotsia.

    He explained that Botswana’s grain stock levels can sustain the country up to the start of the new harvest in July 2018.

    “The onset of the 2017/18 cropping season was characterised by prolonged dry spells and high temperatures resulting in conditions that are not conducive to arable production. Most of the districts did not receive adequate rainfall from November to December 2017 as well as January 2018,” said Ralotsia.

    He added that the low hectarage planted is attributed to low rainfall received during the season. 

    In some parts of the country, crops planted are already wilting due to moisture stress and high temperatures.

    “Consequently, lower yields are anticipated considering the fact that the current weather conditions are harsh for crops to germinate successfully. 

    “For the 2016/17 cropping season, total production was 193,372 tonnes of which cereal production was 128,075 tonnes, an equivalent of 49 percent of the national cereal requirement (260,000 tonnes) and 60 percent of the national demand (320,000 tonnes) for rain-fed production. 

    “Based on this scenario, it is evident that the country would have to augment the deficit through imports,” said Ralotsia.

    He said to improve productivity of the smallholder arable agriculture, the government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are implementing a five-year co-funded Agricultural Services Support Project from (2012/13 to 2016/17) with an extension of 12 months up to March 2018, whose components inter alia include training of farmers on conservation agriculture and low-cost mechanisation.

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