Botswana government has defended the declining contribution of agricultural sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) arguing the collapse came as it was overshadowed by rapid growth in other industries. The discovery of minerals, especially diamonds has taken the shine away from the once important contributor to the country’s pre-independent economy.
Answering a question in parliament, assistant minister of Ministry of Agriculture, Kgotla Autlwetse explained that the agricultural sector has grown significantly since independence. He argued that there were no commercial arable farmers in 1966, but currently there are 90 of them producing an average of 3 tonnes per hectare of cereal, subsistence farmers produce 500 kg per hectare compared to less than 200 kg per hectare at independence.
“There were no horticultural producers in 1966. To date the country is 55% self-sufficient in horticultural produce. We also produce 10% of our national demand for honey while there was no honey production in 1966,” said Autlwetse.
“The livestock sector has also shown significant growth in the last 50 years: the livestock population stands at 2.5 million and 1.8 million for cattle and small stock respectively. Cattle mortality is 12%, off take stands at 8.4% and the average cold dress mass is 200 kg. All these are significant improvements since 1966. The country is now self-sufficient in poultry (table eggs and meat) and we produce 5% of our national demand for fresh milk. In 1966 all these products were imported.”
He said at independence agriculture contributed 40% to the GDP and not 80%. Currently the contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP is 2%.
“This apparent decline is caused by the growth of other sectors in the economy that have come into the picture as government promoted economic diversification. Some of the sectors that have grown at a faster rate than agriculture are: mining, tourism, manufacturing, trade, construction, business services and transport and communications,” he argued.
Government has put in place several programmes and projects to promote and improve agricultural productivity. These include but not limited to the National Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development (NAMPAADD), Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID), Young Farmers Fund (YFF) and Artificial Insemination (AI).
Autlwetse was answering a question from Polson Majaga, the MP for Nata-Gweta on why agriculture has declined since independence. Majaga also wanted to know what might have caused this problem since this industry used to contribute 80% to the GDP.
Diamond mining accounts for more than one-third of GDP, 70-80% of export earnings and about one-third of the government’s revenues.