SELEBI-PHIKWE: Acting managing director of National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC), Martin Kebakile says the agro-processing plant here is necessary to close the gap between the national demand and current supply.
Botswana currently needs 73, 000 tonnes of horticultural products per annum against the only 43, 000 tonnes produced locally.
Briefing members of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi recently, Kebakile said the import bill stood at P1.8 billion annually. The horticultural industry is valued at P700 million hence the need to set up the agro processing plant.
Kebakile explained the aim was not to duplicate the efforts of the Botswana Horticultural Market (BHM), but rather to process less value products instead of disposing them in order to meet the national demand.
“It will mitigate spoilage of excess vegetables and provide a pilot factory for roll out to clustered horticulture produce farmers with critical mass and develop skilled enterprise in agro processing,” he said.
He said other agro processing plants could be set up in other parts of the country if there was a need. He noted the completion of the plant was delayed by power connection, but all equipment has been installed.
“The building used to be supplied by low electricity but there was need to expand hence it took long,” he said. “We hope the plant will be complete by the end of the year.”
SPEDU and NFTRC are also looking at establishing international markets once the national market is satisfied. On the new name, FruVeg, there are concerns it was not appealing and did not relate or communicate to Batswana.
The plant, which is located at the old Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) factory shells, was expected to start operations by the beginning of 2016.
Kebakile explained that they engaged a professional company and the NFTRC team to look for a suitable name. He said a name was then taken to CIPA to conduct the name search. He emphasised the importance of a name that Batswana can relate to.
The chief executive officer of SPEDU, Mokubung Mokubung explained that the FruVeg name had not been accepted and appealed to dikgosi to also suggest a suitable name for the plant and said this could only be achieved through consultation.
He explained that SPEDU was registered in 2012 and it became a company wholly owned by government early this year. He said however it was still a parastatal that government was obligated to finance its operations and development projects.
“We however continue to look for alternative sources of funding,” he added.
Dikgosi were also told that SPEDU could always be replicated in other regions according to their specific special economic zones.