Lack of Research Impeding Botswana’s Beef Industry Growth

Beef is the most important component of the agrifood sector in Botswana. It is an important foreign exchange earner, has many linkages along the chain, and is a source of income for a large segment of the country’s population. As such, the beef value chain is important in terms of food security.

But, despite its importance, the value chain has been facing a series of challenges that have constrained its performance. Productivity has stagnated or decreased over the last decade or two. The number of cattle entering the chain is constrained resulting in significant overcapacity in the processing sector and consequently low profitability  for processors.

Existing opportunities in local, regional and international markets are largely unexploited. In today’s highly competitive and globalized agrifood sector, including the livestock subsector, quality-based differentiation is a key success factor and branding is essential to signal the quality of the product.

Also key is reliability of supply in terms of volumes, prices and quality throughout the year and from year to year. While Botswana struggles with these aspects, it is losing its market share to competitors.

The Botswana government has also recognized that there is need for thorough assessments of the country’s main agrifood subsectors in order to guide the design of policies and programmes that promote competitiveness while taking economic, social and environmental sustainability issues into account. The primary objective of such a
study will be to provide practical and actionable recommendations for a sustainable and inclusive competitiveness strategy that will lead to development and growth in the beef sub-sector.

The secondary objective will be to create a template for the analyses of additional chains under the Botswana Agrifood Value Chain Project (BAVCP). In light of the above, the Ministry of Agriculture requested the collaboration of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to apply the value chain framework to analyse the beef subsector and to provide a set of strategic recommendations aimed at promoting its sustainable development and competitiveness.

The BAVCP Beef Value Chain Study was funded through an FAO Technical Cooperation Programme facility, and represented the first work under the new Botswana Agrifood Value Chain Project which is driven by the Botswana Agricultural Hub.

The study, which was published in 2013, was based on an extensive consultation with key stakeholders throughout the value chain. These included input suppliers, producers, processors, retailers, government officials and other support providers.

It is expected that the recommendations, organized around public and private partnerships, institutional change, trade and market liberalization and knowledge driven development, will provide a solid foundation from which Botswana’s beef sub-sector can grow strongly towards a lucrative and sustainable future for all its stakeholders. It is also hoped that through this study, a wider audience can benefit from the information and in-depth analysis provided.

Amongst a plethora of findings, the study found out that there are critical data gaps in the knowledge needed to make well-informed decisions on the beef industry in Botswana.

The study found that there are no detailed impact studies on the effectiveness of various past agricultural initiatives and programmes from the government. The study recommended that these studies must be carried out as a matter of priority and that they must include both quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis on issues
such as which market or disease management strategies are the most effective and beneficial.

The study also revealed that there are no detailed economic studies on the commercial viability of various business models, including the more holistic management models that may prove to be critical for Botswana’s competitiveness in the international arena, and that there are no systematic gathering of marketing intelligence, such as on Botswana’s beef competitive position in various markets.

Finally, the study noticed that there are gaps in the basic data on the value chain, such as herd size, numbers of stakeholders by type, throughput numbers at various levels in the value chain and so on. The study highly recommends that data collection and analysis be embarked upon or incorporated in any form of research that will be undertaken in the future.

* This article is based on the Beef Value Chain Study which was carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations together with the Ministry of Agriculture.

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