MAUN – Minister for Agricultural Development and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia has said that allegations that a resolution has been made by government to turn the three Botswana Meat Commission abattoirs in Lobatse, Francistown and Maun into private entities were false.
Briefing farmers at a consultative meeting on the future of the BMC, he admitted that only a suggestion had earlier been made to that effect after the realisation that the three were not performing well, particularly the Francistown BMC which has exhausted the government purse.
For some time now, he said government has been injecting money into the abattoir, which now slaughters not even half of the 380 cattle per day as projected.
He said an agreement was made that the Maun BMC, which slaughters a mere 120 cattle per day as compared to the 650 and 380 per day in Lobatse and Francistown respectively should due to its strategic location and many other considerations, be retained as a government entity and that it should be given all the necessary support for its upkeep so that it continues operating.
While the Maun BMC has been hit by constraints such as the low carrying capacity, water shortages, to mention but a few, Ralotsia pointed out that they still have a long way to go in assuring customers that cattle slaughtered and meat sold from the abattoir are free of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), considering that there has been a misguided belief that the abattoir sells and specialises in meat from FMD infested cattle.
“This misconception that meat from here has FMD despite being thoroughly inspected is a predicament. We have a mammoth task to assure them that when we finally reach a point of slaughtering an animal it means it is free of the disease.
“Nevertheless I am happy to learn that since September 2015, there haven’t been any new FMD outbreaks. This therefore means you have to apply yourselves well. You need to avail yourselves and assist veterinary officials whenever there is that need because it is you who are in business and consequently want good results,” he said.
The minister also indicated that currently talks are ongoing with other countries to open foreign markets, adding that should agreements be met, then selling prices in the North West District would also change for the better.
He said: “We have to give the international community assurance that the government has committed itself to ensure our abattoir is profitable and can be trusted with its produce. I also believe if we can have a processing plant it will add value to our beef, so let us be in this together going forward.”
Furthermore he promised that some areas in the North West which have proven to be free of the disease for a long time will be declared green zones, meaning they can now sell to outside markets. Once this has been confirmed, he said they will notify the World Organisation for Animal Health so that such areas may be officially declared green zones.
Meanwhile, farmers have decried an outbreak of the bont teak in most areas of the district, saying its massive presence has already many cattle dying.
Retired Dr Kerapetse Sehularo, now technical expert at the Joint Ngamiland Farmers Association, requested that government should give necessary assistance in terms of vaccinations as well as the deployment of veterinary officers at affected areas.
He noted that the teak will go beyond zone 2C, which is currently a green zone. He called for rapid response to the matter in order to avoid devastation, considering the fact that even wildlife in vulnerable.
In response Veterinary Services Department Director Dr Letlhogile Modisa said they were aware of the teak invasion in the district which they suspected was a result of the heavy rains, even though it is not yet out of control and therefore not a threat.
The teak, he said, was a corridor disease which was also discovered in the North East District. He promised that his department would do all things possible to closely monitor its movement.