- Eswatini currently spends E1.6bn/year buying 1.2m kilograms of food and scheduled products
Mbabane: In a move to reduce food and scheduled products imports into Eswatini, the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard) is taking its performance to the next level by increasing the number of farmable hectares.
Currently, hectares producing fruits, vegetables, and scheduled products are 4 000 and NAMBoard is gearing up to increase this number to 7 000 hectares by 2030. Ultimately, this will result in the reduction of the amount of money that the country spends buying scheduled products from South Africa.
According to NAMBoard’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Siphephiso Dlamini, Eswatini imports about 1.2 million kilograms per annum (fruits, vegetables, and other scheduled products), which cost about E1.6 billion. The CEO said the food crops which they are targeting to reduce include but are not limited to white and yellow maize, beans, sorghum, soya, and sunflower crops and vegetables, both conventional and baby vegetables.
With the increased number of farmable hectares targeted by the marketing board, Dlamini said it might generate approximately about E600 million per year. This effectively means the amount spent in purchasing these products from neighboring South Africa and other countries could come down to E1 billion.
However, Dlamini was quick to explain that the sum of money that would be generated in the country due to the increase in the farmable land, could drop by a lesser amount, but in juxtapose, export revenue might grow. “While we are looking at reducing some of the imports through increasing the farmable land to 7000 hectares, which might result in an increase of the production of yellow maize, mainly used to produce animal feed. Therefore, if the production of yellow maize increases, definitely the production of animal feed will do the same and that will certainly result in the growth of animal feed exported outside the country,” Dlamini explained. Currently, Eswatini exports about 20 percent of animal feed produced in the Kingdom.
The CEO was speaking during a breakfast meeting with Eswatini Editors’ Forum held at Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday. Dlamini highlighted that NAMBoard is currently dealing with 2000 farmers who are producing vegetables, citrus, and other fruits. Dlamini said it is important for the country to upscale its food production because that goes a long way in the development of the economy and creating wealth for the farmers.
Dlamini went on to highlight the financing question, explaining that NAMBoard supports farmers through a revolving fund where they are supplied with farm inputs and provided with technical assistance as a critical part of the move to increase local production. The CEO emphasized that it is of utmost importance for NAMBoard to create the capacity to produce through the empowerment of farmers.
On a rather sad note, Dlamini decried farmers’ failure to take heed to their advice pertaining to the way they produce their vegetables. He said NAMBoard encourages them to always use a market-led approach which speaks to that farmers should always find the market first before they grow their vegetables. The CEO said a market-led approach equips farmers with knowledge of how much vegetables they should plant and which are the suitable varieties for that particular season. “Instead of using a market-led approach, some farmers just go and plant vegetables before soliciting the market and in most of the time, they grow more than the market demands and making matters worse, they grow wrong varieties and this subsequently results in most of them making loses,” he explained.