The Botswana National Beef Producers Union (BNPU) has backed President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recent bull donation initiative that seeks to boost the declining cattle population in the country.
BNBPU Secretary Andrew Seeletso says the initiative is geared towards assisting the beef industry which has been struggling for quite some time.
“The BNBPU will always support any initiative whose aim and goal is to revive the cattle industry, be it by an individual, company and other entities. It must be remembered that the cattle industry as an employer is responsible for the highest number and therefore the welfare of the bigger population of our country,” says Seeletso.
Seeletso added that the beef is an industry that different ages in the society can participate in as it caters for the not so well off as well.
“For the initiative to bear fruit the recipients should ensure that they look after the bulls for them to be productive and assist in the increment of the national herd as well as create wealth for themselves,” says Seeletso.
He further says for the initiative to improve further, more cattle owners should lend a hand with good quality breeds and donate to the intended groups.
Press Secretary to the President Batlhalefi Leagajang, said in an effort to increase cattle herd in the country, improve productivity by using pedigree bulls, improve cattle genetics and development or value chains, President Masisi has commenced a bull donation initiative.
“This is a private sector initiative led by the President done in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture. Just like the ram and buck initiative, President Masisi has donated some bulls for the initiative and has also sourced and received some from the private farmers,” he said.
Leagajang further stated that the selection criteria as devised by the Ministry of Agriculture focuses on farmers who have shown capacity to use the digital technology in the production system, shown evidence of supporting natural clusters with many beneficiaries and good management of cattle posts/farms.
The fall in cattle population comes at a time when government has allowed the live exportation of cattle. In November 2020, the Namibian government said that it will allow the importation of cattle from Botswana to satisfy its beef market in Europe due to an insufficient supply of cattle for slaughter within the neighbouring country.
Europe is currently Namibia and Botswana’s best-paying beef market. The Namibian government said November that it will try out all avenues to ensure it does not lose the EU market. At the same time, in Botswana, the state owned beef exporting company – BMC said in January 2020 that it was objecting the live exports of cattle.
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) says its position is that, live-cattle exports out of Botswana should be considered only when excess national processing capacity is addressed and only when proper regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the country against exploitation and erosion of national herd.
Government has previously stated that Botswana used to boast a cattle population of around three million but it has since declined to 1.5 million.
BMC Communications Manager indicated that the current challenge of cattle population decline is a serious concern, adding that in the past 30 years, the cattle population stood at over 3 million compared to a slight over one million this year.
“In the past 30 years, our cattle population was in the range of 3 million, now as we speak we are hovering just above a million and mind you, the European countries have about 300 million cattle, so taking our beef to them does not mean they are in need of beef or because we have enough cattle,” said Dioka.