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Curtain Finaly Falls On Horticultural Market

PAULINE DIKUELO
The Botswana Horticultural Market (BHM) has failed to survive the storm that hit them when they shut down their operations in December last year.

In an interview with Monitor Business, BHM chief executive officer (CEO) Simon Meti confirmed that they have finally closed down after they failed to find some assistance following the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s withdrawal last year.

“Our situation has been getting worse by the day since the withdrawal of government, which forced us to finally close down,” he said.

The CEO said that the situation was worse and they have even had to sell BHM’s assets. Earlier last year government gave up their attempts to save the troubled BHM when the Ministry decided to stop paying rent for the market. The government has been paying rent for the BHM’s warehouse in Broadhurst since its inception in 2008 through a grant.

Earlier last year, government advised BHM about the developments, as the then assistant minister Kgotla Autlwetse told them that the Ministry has no money hence cutting the assistance they have been extending to the market.

Initially, government was supposed to inject P10.5 million while Botswana Development Corporation’s (BDC) contribution was to be P9.5 million. The remaining P30 million was to come from financiers through loans.

Government delivered on their contribution, the money of which was used to upgrade the infrastructure and paid rentals to the warehouse.

Following several attempts

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by the BHM board to close it, government has been financially rescuing the market as in July two years ago they pumped about P2 million into BHM, a move which diluted BDC’s shares from 49% to 26%. However, these efforts were not enough to save BHM as they needed a collateral to secure a loan.

BHM’s P50 million turnaround plan collapsed as it failed to gain support of key stakeholders, with the BDC pulling out from funding the plan.

BDC expressed doubt over the viability of the suggested business model by a South African consultant company, Brand New Harvest. The strategy suggested that BHM should start using the wholesale system as opposed to the commission one noting that it will be viable for the local market.

On the verge of closure, BHM was using both the commission and wholesale models, which Meti said varies according to the flexibility of the farmers. They were also importing most of their vegetables and fruits from South Africa which included butternuts, tomatoes, pears, apples, bananas, avocados, broccoli, cucumber, green pepper, oranges just to mention a few.

The only vegetables produced in the country include potatoes, onion, a small portion of tomatoes and cabbage because locally we are mostly affected by the weather.



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