Botswana - Country Commercial Guide
Agricultural Sectors
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Botswana has a surface area of 581,730 km2 of which about 46 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 percent 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) and seasonal loans 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 deployment.  The Ministry of Agriculture has received BWP1.09 billion ($73 million) from the 2023/24 Development Budget to cater for the final phase of ISPAAD and cover preparatory activities for the successor program, Temo-Letlotlo, which is designed to promote national self-sufficiency in food production.  Beef is by far Botswana’s primary agricultural product for export.  The cattle population has been showing a decline with current estimated numbers at 1.7 million down from 2.2 million in 2004.  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.  In May 2023, the GoB received a consignment of 162 breeding cattle from the United States which will be used to improve the local genetics. The construction of a $161 million ($14.80 million) multi-species abattoir in Tsabong in the Kgalagadi district, is almost complete.  The abattoir is expected to boost marketing and exports of beef, mutton, lamb, chevon, and game meat.  The GoB is currently working to establish the Meat Regulatory Authority (MIRA), whose mandate will be to liberalize the meat industry sector.

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.  Local cereal production is dominated by sorghum, maize, and millet.  Production of maize (about 10,000 mt per year) is usually far less than the demand, which is usually at 100,000 mt per year.  The Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) notes high demand of tswana cowpeas that exceeds supply and therefore encourages production of this product.  Tswana cowpeas are drought tolerant thereby making them an ideal product for Botswana’s climatic conditions.  The organization also encourages the production of black-eyed cowpeas, sugar beans, red kidney beans, and peas as these products are also heavily consumed and local supply struggles to meet demand.  Currently most of sunflower seed and oil production in Botswana is exported to South Africa.  SEZA is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop Botswana’s sunflower oil value chain.  BAMB is also mandated to manage the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) for purposes of ensuring national food security.  At the end of 2019/20 financial year the SGR stood at 15,000 metric tons for sorghum, 2,263 metric tons of pulses, and 1,344 metric tons of maize.  These are significantly below the target reserves which aim to maintain 30,000 metric tons of sorghum, 30,000 metric tons of maize and 10,000 metric tons of pulses.  Despite this fact, the GoB placed an import/export restriction on grains.   BAMB also engages in contract farming with local farmers.  The government has awarded a tender to construct 12 silos of 5,000 metric tons capacity each in the Pandamatenga area 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 December 2023 and aims to improve the efficacy and efficiency of grain management.  Horticulture production is concentrated in southeastern Botswana, 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 16 horticultural products and enacted an Impact Accelerator Subsidy program for horticultural farmers.  Without refrigerated storage facilities, however, the implementation of the importation ban has resulted in extended periods of markets awash with certain produce items (leading to spoilage) or extended periods without access to certain produce items.

Botswana consumes about 4,000 metric tons of fish per year; only 201 (reported by World bank in 2021) metric tons are produced locally, with the remaining 3,799 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 still awaiting Cabinet approval.   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: 

For other sector reports please see the Attaché report on the main FAS website: 

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, small stock farming, pet foods, health foods, food service, food processing, innovative farming machinery, seed production, feed manufacturing, fertilizer manufacturing, leather/tannery, beekeeping, 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. 


  • U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service: 
  • Botswana Ministry of Agriculture
  • Botswana Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Botswana Unified Revenue Service: