Cape Town — Botswana announced on Monday, December 5, 2023 that it would extend and expand restrictions on imports of some fresh produce from South Africa as it tries to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill.
Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the import ban had slashed the country's fresh-produce import bill by 71%.
Botswana, together with Namibia, extended its end December 2023 deadline to 2025. The number of products will double to 32, from July 2024.
Among the staples impacted will be potatoes, tomatoes and onions which are among the largest commodities affected.
While it could be good news for South African consumers, as the ban could lead to cheaper products at home, Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza is looking to engage with her Botswana counterpart as the government says that this is in contravention of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) trade agreement with other southern African neighbours.
The agricultural sector in drought-prone Botswana is relatively small, accounting for about 5% of economic output, with local farmers squeezed by cheaper imports from South Africa, according to reports.
South Africa supplied about 80% of the country's food before the two-year ban was initially implemented from January 2022.