Local meat producers may soon be able to export their produce to foreign countries following the planned amendment of the Botswana Meat Commission Act.
Moffat Mbaakanyi, owner of Target Meat Industry, said that it was clearly ironic to think that as local Meat Traders and Meat Processors, they have lived and continue to live in a country that has advocacy and monopolistic institutions.
“In the case of the BMC, this monopoly has allowed foreign meat processors to dump their products locally and to compete with locals in the already constricted market,” said Mbaakanyi.
Speaking at the National Consultative Stakeholders workshop on the review of the BMC Act Mbaakanyi said the current BMC Act is confrontational, given the BEDIA mandate that seeks to bring in investors for joint venture projects on targeted meat and meat by-products industries. He said this old legislation had turned Botswana into a hub of cattle rustlers and smugglers. It is this Act that certainly works against the institution it is supposed to enrich and protect, he added.
“We certainly believe that this Act has passed its usefulness and time has come indeed to have it modified to level the playing field,” he said. In their view, he said, time had come to prepare for the W.T.O deadline of 2008, when all trade barriers will be removed by the end of that year.
Mbaakanyi further emphasized that it must be recognized that the Meat Traders and Processors contributed sufficiently to the country’s gross domestic products. “The fact that we account for 50 percent of the annual slaughtered livestock sold in the domestic market should be considered, as it can, in some ways, increase the slaughter rate at the BMC abattoirs.”
Dr Howard Segwele, who also attended the workshop, pointed out that with globalization and trade integration on the doorstep, the livestock industry is one sector in which producers could compete internationally.
Though the beef industry is a sensitive one, he said it can compete very well with other countries as it does not need a lot of production.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of Support Services, Nkatla Moropisi, stressed that strategic alliances should grow from strength to strength. He informed the participants that his ministry was actively involved in the negotiations, and said it is best for producers to position themselves so as to know where to go when the negotiations are over.
“The BMC has really helped us as farmers by increasing throughput of slaughter cattle and the prices of various grades which have also improved. The road has been paved, so let’s stand-up from the four corners of our country and work together so as to have one voice,” said one of the producers who urged farmers to modernize the BMC so that when they move forward they are sure of their future.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), Motshudi Raborokgwe, recently appealed to cattle producers to standup and group themselves so that they could speak in one voice, and urged them to prepare themselves for the opportunities that the BMC avails.
Raborokgwe stated that the Act that was being reviewed is the one that gave birth to the BMC. He said it had provided farmers with reliable markets and given them a voice on their cattle.
“Though the European Union (EU) has been a small player, they have punched well above our weight. We have managed to build two world-class abattoirs which can compete with the best world abattoirs,” he said, adding that the government eventually wishes to privatize the BMC and the amendment to the Act would prepare the BMC for that.
Johnie Swartz, the Minister of Agriculture, who officiated at the workshop, said the agriculture sector was not responsive to the opportunities and only cry foul when challenges appeared. Swartz said that the opportunities, such as access to the European Union through quotas, were intended to develop the agricultural industry since the barriers to trade are being removed.