Botswana faces a drastically lower 2018 crop as an unseasonal dry spell has seen plantings plummet by 98% from a year ago, agriculture officials said. Last season farmers planted 384,250 hectares of cereals, including corn, wheat, sorghum and millet, and so far this season only 6,131 hectares have been planted, Thebe Nala, the Deputy Director of crop production at the Ministry of Agriculture said in an interview on Feb. 1.
The country’s Meteorological Services department had forecast normal to above normal rains for the season in its assessments in September and December, but the traditional start of ploughing in November was disrupted by an unexpected dry spell that only ended in the final week of January.
In response, the government has extended its 600-million pula agricultural inputs program for communal farmers in a bid to boost planting and the number of farmers participating. The program provides farmers with free tillage, seeds and various agrochemicals including fertilizers and pesticides, Agriculture Minister Patrick Ralotsia said on January 31.
The country’s current strategic grain reserves and commercial stocks are sufficient for eight months, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board said in an emailed reply to questions Friday. BAMB spokeswoman Kushatha Modiakgotla was unable to give details on imports that may be required as assessments are only done in March.