South Africa seeks ‘urgent meeting’ as Botswana extends restriction on fresh produce imports

A woman speaking into a microphone

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza. File Picture

Published Dec 6, 2023


Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza has raised concern over Botswana’s extension on import restrictions.

Didiza’s office said was seeking “an urgent meeting” with her counterpart in Botswana, in hopes that the impasse would be resolved through negotiations.

“We hope that the engagements will assist in resolving this challenge for the benefit of our countries and industry,” she said.

On Tuesday, IOL reported that the neighbouring Botswana said it would extend and expand restrictions on imports of some fresh produce as it tries to become self-sufficient in food, and to cut its import bill.

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

Botswana’s ban on imports of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other fresh produce has angered farmers in South Africa. File Picture

The agriculture, land reform and rural development department said Didiza’s concern was about the negative impact the continued ban would have on bilateral trade between the two countries.

“The minister will seek an urgent meeting with her Botswana’s counterpart in order to raise her concerns and further listen to her colleague on what may be the underlying concerns that has made Botswana to take this move,” department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said.

Didiza has previously raised South Africa's concerns on the restrictions during the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) summit in July.

“There was hope that a broader bilateral engagement will take place between agriculture and trade ministers of two countries to try and have a better understanding on what has occasioned such move from Botswana,” said Ngcobo.

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza. File Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Reuters reported that South Africa previously supplied about 80% of Botswana’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%.