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Cattle producers welcome BMC privatisation

Publishing Date : 13 March, 2018

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Botswana National Beef Producers Union (BNBPU), the cattle producers’ apex body, has noted with some measure of optimism, a decision by Government to corporatize and commercialise the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) as a business entity jointly owned by Government and the farmers.

We are hopeful that this policy direction, if handled with utmost care and urgency, will bring about the much-needed changes that are necessary, not only to improve producer prices, but to ensure long term sustainability of the livestock and cattle industry in this country.  For far too long, decisions were made by Government concerning the abattoir without the involvement of the farmers even though BMC was established as a statutory farmers cooperative to serve as a marketing channel for our beef.

BNBPU recognises that there are two major factors that have contributed to the perennial losses of the BMC. First, the mismatch between the cattle offtake and the capacity of the abattoirs. The result is that the two export abattoirs have continually been operating at below capacity while fixed costs were continuing to mound on to the operational losses of the BMC.

The second reason is the marketing requirements of the European Union market, which market arguably offers the best prices for our beef. The EU requires that the beef exported to their member countries should be traceable to the origin of the cattle before they were slaughtered. Since 2001, a lot of cattle which hitherto were eligible for the EU market were disqualified, as they cannot be traced to any particular holding, owing largely to the communal grazing system. Considering that 80% of our production comes from the communal areas, that failing had a negative impact on the national throughput.

 BNBPU is aware that partly because of the financial challenges resulting from the market conditions referred to above, there have been calls by stakeholders, including commercial farmers and meat processors to liberalise the beef export market. Some of the primary producers have gone further to suggest that the ban on export of live cattle should be lifted. These are genuine concerns requiring serious policy interventions. Which is why as BNBPU, we called for a study to advise on the feasibility of such policy decisions.

We are thus excited that Government has responded positively to the call for a planned liberalisation of the industry. The establishment of an independent livestock and meat regulatory body to deal, amongst others, with licensing of abattoirs, including export abattoirs, will no doubt give the necessary comfort and impetus for investment in the industry.  

As BNBPU, we believe that laissez faire economics is not an option in an industry such as ours, which is prone to outbreaks of natural disasters such as animal diseases and drought. Which is why we support regulation and a partnership between Government and the farmers, when it comes to transformation of the livestock and meat industry.



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