Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Big guns clash in bid to end BMC monopoly

A group of powerful Ghanzi cattle farmers are lobbying to be granted a licence for an Export (EU) abattoir to be built in Ghanzi.

The Ghanzi Beef Producers Association has already come up with a well researched proposal, which has the support of the Ghanzi district councilors and Member of Parliament, Christian De Graaf, who is also the Minister of Agriculture.

De Graaf is currently caught up in a controversial bid to end the BMC monopoly. Parliament recently deferred a bill by De Graaf aimed at ending the BMC monopoly saying this would result in the BMC being owned by a cartel while thousands of farmers in Botswana remain disadvantaged.

In their proposal, Ghanzi farmers state that, “The Ghanzi Beef Producers Association, in the interests of modernizing and creating a vibrant Cattle Industry in Botswana, would like to fully support the Ghanzi District Council in its endeavor to be granted a licence, for an Export (EU) abattoir to be built in the Ghanzi area.”

Backing Minister De Graaf’s attempt to free the beef export market, the farmers argue that, “De Graaf is a civil servant. Civil servants work for civil society. If the Ghanzi Beef Farmers Association and the whole community wants another abattoir, Mr. De Graaf is obliged to do his level best to achieve that mandate for his constituents, the tax payer, and the voter. We also pledge to give the Minister our full support in his quest for freeing the export market.”

In their proposal, Ghanzi cattle farmers argue that “job creation, range conservation, increased tax revenue, better animal welfare, and decreased risk of export closure due to outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease will be positive spin offs from such a venture.

“We believe that there is enormous capital tied up in unprocessed/unsold/ unslaughtered cattle and small stock throughout Botswana, and that the provision of a New Commercially driven Export Abattoir will free up this money that is not driving the economy. Anybody who owns a cow will benefit.

“Additionally, Export of Product through the closest port, Walvis Bay, will reduce the numerous current risks, to export through R.S.A, which in turn, will also reduce the risks of failure of the export market when R.S.A. has a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.”

With Members of Parliament opposing De Graaf’s bid to end the BMC monopoly, indications are that Ghanzi farmers are already toying with the idea of taking the issue to court. In their proposal, they stated that, “The BMC Act is not being upheld in this case, which is illegal. That the BMC is not fulfilling its legal mandate to Botswana Beef Producers, which would allow an export abattoir licence to be granted by the Judicial System of Botswana if needs must.”

They further state that policy of not allowing non BMC derived meat exports “has therefore become immoral and against the public interest and this is contrary to the context in which commodities are sold and traded in a modern production environment worldwide. Imagine what would happen to the diamond industry if similar limitations were to be imposed by government!! Producers are losing money daily through lack of market access, while their product is sought after the world over.

Botswana is probably the only country in the world where it’s producers, despite producing much more than what can be consumed or processed within the country, are prohibited from exporting their excess product ÔÇô it is absurd and flies against macroeconomic common sense.”

The farmers pointed out that, “BMC Lobatse is extremely old, and antiquated, and the Government will be forced to rebuild it in the next 5 years, as frequent breakdowns, and new EU legislation are making it non viable. Therefore, another export abattoir, will allow BMC to build a new abattoir, with reduced impact of the beef producer, as the old abattoir is decommissioned.”

The proposal also states that, “Ghanzi Farming area is far removed from Zimbabwe, where most FMD outbreaks tend to occur. When Francistown gets FMD, it will be easier to KEEP open an EXPORT abattoir in Ghanzi, due to its isolation, BUT Ghanzi will have to be vigilant for FMD via Khuke fence.

Additionally, as stated in the summary above, exports via Walvis Bay in Namibia, will be beneficial, should current exports through South Africa be disrupted.”

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