Botswana has a surface area of 581,730 km2 of which 45.63 percent has been zoned for agricultural production. While agriculture comprises of less than 2 percent of GDP, it is vital to the livelihood of many citizens who operate subsistence farms. Livestock production, especially cattle, contributes an estimated 80% to the agricultural GDP. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has made a conscious effort to build resilience in food supply chains and reliable domestic production that will help improve food security and self-sufficiency. The government developed an incentive package which can be accessed through the National Development Bank (NDB) and includes an Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), seasonal loans, etc, to attract investors and to improve commercial viability in the sector. In addition, the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), was reviewed to address challenges facing farmers and the low productivity in the arable sub sector. The components of the new program include cluster fencing, provision of potable water, seeds and fertilizers, facilitation of access to credit and establishment of Agricultural Service Centers across the country. Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) has been transferred to CEDA for effective and efficient management. The proposed development budget for this Ministry for the current financial year is $77.39 million and will cater for the revamped ISPAAD program, provision of services and basic infrastructure such as electricity, telecommunications, roads and water reticulation to selected agricultural production areas and be used for projects under LIMID, which will facilitate value chains. These projects include small stock, piggery, poultry production, dairy production, apiculture/bee production, horticulture, and aquaculture/fish production. Beef is by far Botswana’s primary agricultural product for export. The cattle population is currently estimated at 2.1 million. Livestock production exceeds domestic needs, and the country has exported range-fed beef to the European Union. The development of a modern cattle farming and slaughter industry (and the corresponding development of a market for U.S. feed stocks, ingredients, and technology) is limited by the government’s monopoly on meat processing plants, exports, livestock prices as well as outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease, especially in the northeastern part of the country. The GoB is seeking new market opportunities abroad with particular interest in the Middle East market, and BITC is currently working on a strategy to export beef to the U.S. market. A beef strategy is currently being worked on with the assistance of the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (SATIHUB).
The crop sub-sector is dominated by cereals, but is limited by constrained productivity, unreliable water supply, and the fact that 70 percent of Botswana’s landscape consists of desert and poor soils. In 2018, national cereal production totaled 36,284 metric tons (MT), up from 23,470 MT recorded in 2017. The top three cereals produced in Botswana are sorghum, maize, and millet. Botswana also produced 2,348 MT of beans, 145 MT of groundnuts, and 78 MT of sunflowers in 2017. The Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) is the major player in ensuring food security for the country and manages the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). BAMB also engages in contract farming with local farmers. BAMB maintains SGR at 30,000 MT of sorghum, 30,000 MT of Maize and 10,000 MT of pulses but does not hold any maize or sunflower. The government has awarded a tender to construct silos in the Pandamatenga area (bordering Zimbabwe) as part of the facilities to be used by farmers operating within the Agricultural Economic Special Zone. The project is expected to be completed in 2022 and will improve the efficacy and efficiency of grain management. Horticulture production is concentrated in the southeast, with a small production that only satisfies 54 percent of the national demand and primarily consists of potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, and oranges. The government is trying to increase local production in this area. To spur local production, in 2022, the GoB placed restrictions on the importation of 14 horticultural products and enacted an Impact Accelerator Subsidy program for horticultural farmers.
Botswana consumes about 4,000 tons of fish per year; only 300 tons are produced locally, with the remaining 3,700 tons imported from neighboring countries. Efforts to augment fish production through aquaculture are ongoing and the government is in the process of upgrading its fish hatchery in the eastern part of the country (Mmadinare). This could provide a niche market for incoming investors. The sector also supplies raw materials for agri-based industries such as meat processing, tanning, milling, oil, soap, and brewing.
Botswana drafted the National Biosafety Bill that is currently awaiting cabinet approval and is expected to be passed by parliament in the December 2022 Parliament sitting. If the bill is passed, Botswana will begin to utilize biotechnology to produce food and increase food security, decrease land use, and increase yields.
The GoB has resuscitated the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI). NARDI’s goal is to develop the country’s research agenda and to improve crop and livestock production technologies to enhance the development of a productive and environmentally friendly agricultural sector.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Pretoria prepares more than 50 reports each year on the agricultural situation by commodity sector in South Africa. Some reports highlight opportunities for U.S. farm exports. For U.S. exporters of agricultural products, it may be useful to start with the Exporter Guide for South Africa at: www.fas.usda.gov/scriptsw/AttacheRep/default.asp.
For other sector reports please see the Attaché report on the main FAS website: www.fas.usda.gov.
If you are an exporter of U.S. agricultural products, please feel free to contact the Foreign Agricultural Service for further information at the following address:
Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa
Tel: +27-12-431 4235
Fax: +27-12-342 2264
Sub-Sector Best Prospects
Grains, pulses, sunflower, dairy farming, pet foods, health foods, food service, food processing, innovative farming machinery, seed production, feed manufacturing, leather, and fish farming are the best sub-sector prospects.
The GoB is seeking to attract private sector investment to establish commercial farms, tanneries for the export of processed hides and skins, a poultry hatchery, breeder stock and poultry abattoirs, and pig feed production and breeder stock. A South African company established a P500 million ($40 million) citrus project on 1500 ha in the SPEDU region. More investment opportunities still exist in this sector as the country experiences shortages in all agricultural products, except beef. In 2015, Parliament approved a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) law to streamline investment in sector-targeted geographic areas in the country and has since operationalized the Authority. The GoB plans to operationalize SEZs in Selibe-Phikwe (for horticulture), in Lobatse (for beef and leather), and Pandamatenga (for agriculture).
The Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project and the Chobe–Zambezi water transfer scheme in northern Botswana that the government intends to build, finance, and operate on a public private partnership (PPP) basis, will develop infrastructure and agricultural production on a large commercial scale. In addition to job creation, these projects are intended to encourage private investment in the agricultural industry. The Government of Zimbabwe has raised objections to the GoB’s plans to divert water to irrigate this project.
There is considerable potential for the development of entrepreneurial fish farming. Currently it is not conducted on a commercial scale and is confined mainly to the Chobe River and Okavango Delta. Commercial production of Tswana (free range) chicken meat and eggs, commercial production of small stock, hatcheries of day-old broilers and point of lay pullets, and feed manufacturing are other opportunities in this sector.
- Botswana Ministry of Agriculture
- U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service: www.fas.usda.gov
- Botswana Ministry of Trade and Industry
- Botswana Unified Revenue Service