Botswana’s food deficit widens

PUBLISHED: Fri, 02 Mar 2018 17:18:08 GMT

GABORONE, March 2 (Reuters) – Botswana is facing a food deficit after a drought slashed the acreage of planted crops by 75 percent in the just ended ploughing season, after it suffered a severe El Nino-induced drought in the past two years.

Botswana, a landlocked, diamond-rich nation, perennially relies of food imports mostly from neighbouring South Africa to augment relatively low local production.

Addressing Parliament late Thursday, the Minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia said a total of only 42,800 hectares were planted in the season to the end of February compared with 167,562 hectares during the 2016/17 season.

The 2016/17 season plantings produced 193,372 tonnes of grain – 60 percent of the annual national demand of 320,000 tonnes. The deficit was met by imports, meaning Botswana will need to bring in significantly more imports of grain this year.

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Ralotsia said Botswana was likely to experience a“severe food deficit as in some parts of the country crops planted are already showing signs of wilting.”

Botswana’s grain stock levels can sustain the country up to the start of the new harvest in July 2018, he said.

The drought has hit much of the southern Africa region, including South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy and the top producer of the staple grain, which has declared a national disaster over the drought. (Editing by James Macharia)