Gaborone — Botswana pork industry is said to be producing less than half of the national demand of 1500 tonnes per year.
In an interview with BOPA recently, the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security, Senior Scientific Officer, Mr Othusitse Sebolaakhudu, said in 2019, the country produced 477 tonnes and imported 518.99 tonnes of processed pork products.
This, he said, was attributed to a number of challenges such as high feed prices, inadequate slaughtering facilities, inadequate extension services due to shortage of resources, breeding stock of inferior quality, disorganised marketing, limited pig production and business management skills, as well as transboundary diseases.
Mr Sebolaakhudu however highlighted that in an effort to address the challenges, government was working tirelessly to assist farmers improve production. "Department of Animal Production's extension officers in various districts train and equip farmers with the necessary skills on pig management," he said, adding that the officers also visited farms on a monthly basis to give necessary advice.
He explained that the department also facilitated formation of associations to advocate for farmers, both to government and to buyers as well as regulating the amount of pork imported as a way of promoting local production.
Regarding financial assistance, he said some institutions, such as Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, funded establishment of piggery projects.
He said the Department of Animal Production then assisted farmers with guidances on developing sound business proposals in collaboration with the Department of Agribusiness Promotions (DABP) and assessing suitability of plots.
He revealed that a good number of farmers had so far benefited from the dispensation.
He also pointed out that the department facilitated farmers to form clusters and buy pig feed at cheaper prices, from neighbouring countries.
Mr Sebolaakhudu said Sebele pig multiplication unit also breeded quality pigs to sell to emerging farmers and those in production at subsidised prices.
He revealed that there were many opportunities in the pig value chain and therefore urged farmers to take up piggery as a viable business, adding that it also had the ability to create employment.
"The demand for pork and its by-products in the hospitality and tourism sub-sector presents opportunities for investment in the value chain," he said, adding that there were about 199 projects, which employed a total of 211 people.
According to the Secretary of Botswana Pork Producers Association, Dr Keoneeng Magocha, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pork industry was doing well in terms of prices.
He indicated that pig prices had since drastically dropped by more than P10 per kilogramme, which meant farmers did not make profit from sales, even though pork prices had remained the same.
He said this would eventually discourage farmers and those who wished to venture into the industry.
Dr Magocha explained that it was now very expensive to keep pigs, considering high feed price, since government stopped feed subsidy.
He pointed out that government could assist the industry to develop by encouraging different organisations such as Botswana Defence Force, prisons, police as well as schools, to buy pork.
He further said there was lack of knowledge about pork, hence the need to educate the nation about its benefits.
In an interview, Ditlhakane-based pig farmers, Seabo and Lesedi Keatswitswe highlighted that under normal circumstances, pork production could be a lucrative business.
Lesedi revealed that they ventured into pig production in 2014, to significantly contribute to the industry and make a profit.
She said they started their self-financed farming with five sows and one boar, after acquiring land and constructing a borehole.
Seabo indicated that like any other business, they encountered challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as most of the establishments that they used to supply closed.
He also said with few buyers still open, pork prices dropped, adding that they had no option but not to sell, resulting in them struggling to buy feed.
He lamented government's decision to stop animal feed subsidy, as it worsened their plight.
He urged government to reconsider the decision or come up with other ways to ease the burden on them.
He also urged Botswana Pork Producers Association to revise pork prices and consult with the government on the best way forward in terms of feed prices.
Seabo encouraged those who want to venture into the industry, to have passion, as it entailed a lot of work and resources.
Source : BOPA