Botswana to expand fresh-produce import restrictions

Botswana said on Monday it would extend and expand restrictions on imports of some fresh produce as it tries to become self-sufficient in food and cut its import bill.

The ban on imports of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other produce - which has angered farmers in neighbouring South Africa and was due to expire at the end of December - would now run until the end of 2025, the agriculture ministry said.

The number of restricted items would also double to 32 from July next year, the ministry added.

The wait until July would act as a grace period to give Botswana's "farmers some time to plant so that local produce can be ready," it said.

The drought-prone country's agricultural sector is relatively small, accounting for about 5% of economic output, with local farmers squeezed by cheaper imports from South Africa.

South Africa supplied about 80% of the country's food before a two-year ban was initially implemented from January 2022.

In a state of the nation address last month, Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the import ban had slashed the country's fresh-produce import bill by 71%.

Botswana says it is protecting nascent industries, but South African farmers have said the ban violates the Southern Africa Customs Union agreement.-Fin24

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