Maun — It is hoped that Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) free trade agreement, which is under review, will open more markets for goods from the countries involved.
Speaking on the sidelines of the negotiations for the SACU/EFTA review in Maun, recently, the EFTA spokesman (Norway) Mr Lass Norogaard said the party states had realised the need to review the 2006 agreement to improve market opportunities.
Mr Norogaard observed that the negotiations, which started in 2018, were anticipated to be completed by early 2020, which would allow implementation of the revised trade agreement by 2021.
He highlighted that the SACU/EFTA provided markets for agricultural products, especially beef and sheep, from the SACU member states to the European countries under EFTA. He said the review sought to open more markets for goods such as fruits and vegetables produced in the SACU countries, to be exported to the European countries.
Mr Norogaard observed that although there was progress made in markets between the states in the previous years, the review would help improve the markets further for both parties.
He however said the review process was challenging since it involved different countries, with different interests.
The agreement involves four European countries of Norway, Iceland, Finland and Switzerland and five African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia and Eswatini.
For his part, the Botswana SACU Chief Negotiator, Mr Phadza Butale said Botswana hoped that the revised agreement would allow for export of sheep bone meat, which he said had more market value than sheep meat without bones.
He observed that one of the challenges experienced with the trade agreement in the past was that of the lack of efficiency by the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in buying livestock from farmers and delayed payments.
Mr Butale said the hope was that the revised trade agreement would be concurrent with the transformation of the BMC for local farmers to effectively benefit from the SACU EFTA through facilitation of the BMC.
He said the other expectation was to export more beef for farmers to benefit optimally from the agreement.
Mr Butale therefore said the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security had a major role to play to ensure that local farmers produced more to benefit from the markets.
He noted that Botswana in turn imported items such as machinery used in mines and medicine from the European countries.
Source : BOPA