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Botswana Sets its Sights on China: Pursuing a Beef Deal to Conquer Eastern Asian Markets

BOTSWANA – As Botswana sets its sights on expanding its economic horizons, the country is actively pursuing an agreement that will pave the way for its beef exports to enter the lucrative Chinese market. Fidelis Molao, the Minister of Agriculture, believes that the Chinese market presents a promising opportunity for Botswana to increase its export potential.

“We are hoping to sign a deal that will very soon provide the Chinese people with a perfect opportunity to taste the succulent beef from Botswana,” Minister Molao expressed with enthusiasm.

In addition to the beef market, Botswana is also looking to venture into the citrus product export space, with plans set for 2024. Minister Molao shared, “We will be looking at China and other markets for our products in that regard.” The country’s citrus cultivation plans include growing oranges, pineapples, pawpaw, and mangoes, aiming to tap into the growing demand for these fruits in international markets.

According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), China became the leading import market for beef and beef products in 2019, surpassing the United States, with purchases amounting to a substantial US$8.4 billion. This staggering demand for beef in China presents a golden opportunity for countries like Botswana, which are renowned for their beef production.

Botswana, akin to its neighboring countries South Africa and Namibia, has been a significant beef exporter. In 2019, the country ranked as the ninth-largest beef exporter to the European Union. However, Botswana has faced challenges, with its earnings from beef exports declining from US$130 million in 2010 to US$80 million in 2018.

In a progressive move in 2020, Botswana opened up its beef industry, allowing farmers to export their meat directly. Prior to this decision, the state-owned Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) held the exclusive license for beef exports, resulting in farmers selling their products to the organization at low prices, and often facing delayed payments.

With the industry’s liberalization, Botswana set its sights on exporting at least 10,000 tonnes of beef to China annually, as per the announcement from the office of the president. The exciting news followed China’s lifting of the longstanding ban on Botswana beef and beef by-products from FMD-free areas in February 2020. This significant development marked the end of a two-decade-long ban that had been imposed due to animal health controls, particularly concerning contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Botswana’s northwestern district of Ngamiland.

At present, Botswana’s annual beef production stands at approximately 24,000 tonnes, with the meat-processing company, Botswana Meat Commission, playing a crucial role in this endeavor. Of this production, a noteworthy 9,000 tonnes are exported to the European Union, underscoring the country’s potential to make a significant impact in international markets, particularly with the anticipated entry into the Chinese market.

As Botswana forges ahead with its efforts to close the deal on beef exports to China, the nation is taking bold steps to secure its place in the highly competitive global beef trade. With the Chinese market’s insatiable appetite for beef products, Botswana’s flavorful and high-quality beef has the potential to become a sought-after commodity, propelling the nation’s economy to new heights and strengthening diplomatic and economic ties between the two nations. As the first consignment of Botswana beef prepares to make its way to China, the future looks bright for Botswana’s agriculture and export sectors.

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