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Botswana makes moves to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill

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Botswana has revealed that it would extend and expand restrictions on imports of some fresh produce as it tries to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill.

The ban on imports of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other produce — which angered farmers in SA and was due to expire at the end of December — would now run until the end of 2025, said the agriculture ministry.

The number of restricted items would also double to 32 from July next year, the ministry said.

The wait until July would act as a grace period to give Botswana’s farmers “some time to plant so that local produce can be ready”.

The drought-prone country’s agricultural sector is relatively small, accounting for about 5% of economic output, with local farmers squeezed by cheaper imports from SA.

SA supplied about 80% of the country’s food before a two-year ban was initially implemented in January 2022.

In a State of the Nation address last month, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the import ban slashed the fresh-produce import bill  by 71%.

Botswana says it is protecting nascent industries, but SA farmers have said the ban contravenes the Southern Africa Customs Union agreement.