Selebi Phikwe — Plans are underway to revamp the ailing National Agro Processing (NAPRO) into a sustainable commercial entity.
NAPRO, formed in 2016 as a spin-off project from National Technology Food Resource Centre (NAFTRC) was established with the aim to diversify the economy of Selebi Phikwe, which collapsed as a result of the closure of the BCL mine.
The mine was the backbone of the economy of Selebi Phikwe.
Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr Molebatsi Molebatsi, who toured the facility together with parastatal organisations under his ministry; got to appreciate the project and its teething problems so that they come up with a better plan to revamp the project.
Touring the NAPRO project in Selebi Phikwe on Friday, Mr Molebatsi said NAPRO, which produced beetroots, atchaar and tomato sauce under the brand Harvest Haven, had the potential to drive government aspirations in developing value chains in food production.
"NAPRO is a readily available facility that could drive us to achieve our goal," he said.
Government, he said, could not leave a facility of this kind turn into a white elephant, thus urged parastatal organisations under his ministry such as LEA to help find ways to revamp the facility.
He said government was aware of challenges faced by NAPRO and would fight by all might to protect locally produced goods.
Nonetheless, he urged the NAPRO team to also work tirelessly to address issues of bar codes and certification by Botswana Bureau of Standards to assure customers that NAPRO products were safe to consume.
Acting operations manager for NAPRO, Ms Metlha Mangwane explained that the NAPRO project had teething problems that had prevented it from operating at full capacity and penetrating the market.
She said currently the plant was operating at eight per cent and operating most processes manually, resulting in less efficient and low output.
Quality control, she said, had also proven to be a challenge as NAPRO had no quality control equipment, forcing them to take their products to NAFTRC in Kanye for testing.
The acting manager explained that plans were underway to establish a laboratory for food testing locally.
Ms Mangwane further noted that product acceptance was also a challenge as customers preferred foreign products to local ones, resulting in producing limited products.
This, she said, had resulted in the company buying less produce from local farmers, adding that the company had anticipated to process about 32 tonnes of tomatoes, but this had not been the case as the company did not operate at full capacity.
NAPRO products, she said, were not available countrywide because of lack of warehouse for storage as well as distribution trucks.
She said P600 000 had been set aside to purchase two bakkies to assist with distribution of products, adding that some distribution companies were approached but it was costly to use their services.
For his part, Selebi Phikwe Town Council mayor, Mr Lucas Modimana encouraged government departments and the nation at large to support locally produced products.
He said local products were the same quality as foreign ones, hence the need to procure locally.
Mayor Modimana gave the government's transformation agenda a thumbs up, saying that it was going to boost the economy as well as transform the lives of Batswana.
He also applauded the idea of value chains, noting that there was need to expand the capacity of NAPRO to make it a sustainable commercial entity.
He urged the NAPRO team to work closely with farmers and give guidance on the quality of agricultural produce required so that the company produced quality products.
NAPRO products are available at Choppies, Sefalana, Daily Needs, Spar and Fours stores.
Source : BOPA