Import ban increases vegetable prices in Botswana

BOTSWANA – Effected last December through the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, the ban prohibits the importation of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, bell peppers, melon pear and beetroot.

This came after a highly destructive insect pest known as tomato leaf miner or tuta absoluta was detected in the Bobirwa, Boteti, Chobe, North East, and North West areas.

Tomato leaf miner is a very harmful leaf-mining moth with a strong preference for tomatoes and it also occurs on other various solanaceous crops such as potatoes, peppers and eggplants.

So far the ban is threatening supplies of these basic commodities in the local retail market and pushing prices up.

A quick survey carried out by Mmegi Business this week on some retailers has proved that a number of basic fruits and vegetables are disappearing from supermarkets’ shelves as the effects of the import restrictions begin to manifest.

On Tuesday, fruit and vegetable suppliers, Fruit & Veg City had run out of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peppers and other vegetables that are needed on a daily basis.

In most Spar stores around Gaborone, vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots and potatoes were nowhere to be found on the shelves.

“We have been experiencing this shortage since last month ever since we heard about the announcement of the importation ban on some vegetables,” said one store manager who declined to be identified.

Statistics from the ministry indicate that Botswana relies on imported vegetables from the neighboring South Africa to meet the demand, as local production is lacking.

With the ban in force, infested farms are not allowed to plant host crops for a year and importation of tomato fruits from countries infested with the pest is suspended until further notice.

Recently the Botswana Horticulture Council chairman, Boikaego Phole said the ban had already started impacting on their horticultural businesses, with some farms having been quarantined.

“At the moment we cannot quantify the extent of the impact since the ministry has not concluded its assessment of the situation,” he said.

He further appealed to government to back them in lobbying insurance companies to consider introducing schemes meant for horticulture.

January 12, 2017; http://www.mmegi.bw/index.php?aid=65740&dir=2017/january/12

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