Thursday

Australia to help build agric safety plant

By BOPA

Australia has pledged to finance the construction of phytosanitary and plant quarantine in Botswana that will ascertain the quality and safety of imported agricultural products.

The project, which is at a tendering stage, would assist the Ministry of Agriculture in capacity building in the area of bio-security.

Minister Johnnie Swartz, who arrived recently from China and Australia, told BOPA that the undertaking entails building structures and installing machinery at the countrys borders to check the quality, standards and safety of all incoming agricultural products.

Components of the project include training of Batswana locally and at the Australian quarantine and inspection services.

During the visit, Swartz and his delegation had sight of the advances Western Australia has made in the areas of cereal production, horticulture, storage, transportation and marketing.

He said cereal from Western Australia is produced from dry land or rain-fed farming technologies that Botswana could benefit from, by adopting and adapting these technologies to produce food under nearly similar conditions of low rainfall and infertile soils.

Beef farmers in the area have increased their rangeland productivity for beef production by improving pastures, he added.

All these are possible with strong linkages and alliances formed between producers, processors and exporters.

A statement from the ministry says apart from bio-security, the two states have also identified potential areas of co-operation in the fields of intensive horticultural production, rain-fed cropping, dairy industry development, cattle production and environmental management.

Local training institutions and the Universities of Curtin and Murdoch in Australia are also to kick-off partnership in the near future.

Currently 43 Batswana are enrolled in the two universities, which specialise in agri-business. Apart from agri-business Batswana will be trained at Australian universities in veterinary medicine, animal science and bio-medical sciences.

It is undoubted that we desperately need to intertwine agriculture with sound business acumen so as to sustain the sector, Swartz said.

While in China on a similar mission the delegation was also exposed to agricultural projects that include water saving irrigation scheme where high-tech systems were practised, through which the Chinese could still feed themselves out of season.

The team also visited a leather factory. Swartz said the industry generates exports valued at over P90 million annually and has employed about 60 000 people.

We could copy from the Chinese and diversify our economy through that endeavour, he said.

In addition, the minister said an agreement was made for a follow up on the 1996 Botswana-China ostrich trade protocol, which involved the exportation of live ostriches to China and other countries abroad.

The protocol did not materialise following the construction of a local abattoir. As of now we can only export ostrich products like eggs, hides and feathers, the minister explained.

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