The country’s import bill shows that Botswana imports a lot of citrus products from outside the country, a gap that needs to be filled by local farmers to consistently meet the demand.
One such local farmer, Daniel Makwana, the owner of the Set Mak orange farm in Molalatau, is one of the few local farmers who have taken the initiative to venture into citrus farming to generate local produce to meet the demand in the country.
Makwana told Monitor Business that he had to part with millions of pula to start his business.
“I started the business in 2011 using my own money and I used over a million pula to buy the land and also get the necessary equipment that I needed to start production,” Makwana said. According to Makwana, he was fortunate to get assistance from Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) years later that assisted with training, provision of necessary skills to run his business successfully as well as assisting with market for his produce. The 17.1-hectare piece of land is located in Molalatau; a village situated a few kilometres outside Bobonong in the Bobirwa area. The orange trees cover six hectares of the farm while another three hectares is used for the production of maize and watermelons.
The farm boasts of two wells that are used to provide water for the farm and they use an electric pump to pump water from the boreholes to water the plants that Makwana says is one of the biggest production expenses they incur, as a business due to the fact that their watering equipment uses a lot of electricity during operation. The farm also has two irrigation systems of
Makwana says the Citrus production industry has a lot of perks besides the challenges they encounter, which include the fact that they have the liberty to choose their clients. With the interventions of the trade license authorities that deal with the import of citrus products usually consult farmers to give them priority during the harvest time.
“I am currently preparing another part of the farm in order to increase the variety of produce,” Makwana said, adding that in his farm he intends to grow potatoes and onions though he says the farm’s main focus will still be on orange farming.Currently the farm has two full time employees as Makwana says the activities do not require a lot of hands on deck. He said the only labour intensive activity is the harvest, which usually lasts for a week, and he usually hires temporary workers.
He says the target market for his products is the schools in the region along with individual customers who come from the communities during the harvest season to buy his produce. When asked on the penetration into the retail market he complained about the pricing systems of local retailers, which he says are usually unreasonable as they are way to low to help him sustain the farm’s production costs.