Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has indicated that Botswana could lose its European markets due to local farmer’s reluctance to commercialize farming.
BMC Communications Manager Brian Dioka highlighted that local farmers are still failing to implement the recommendations of the 2018 beef cluster strategy which could massively improve beef farming in the country and by extent be appealing to the foreign markets.
“Our local farmers are communally driven as opposed to being commercially driven and that is increasingly making it difficult for local beef to penetrate the foreign markets,”
“We have pleaded with farmers over the years since the development of the beef sector strategy to exhaust its initiatives more so that they are contextualized to the Botswana environment,” added Dioka.
Dioka noted that the market choices are becoming validated the world over, adding that there is need for local farmers to play to the demands of the consumer.
He further stated 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.
Dioka stated that by 2016 Botswana’s contribution to global beef trade was 0.13% adding that even if Botswana was to disappear, no European market will miss Botswana beef.
“Even here in Africa, we used to have countries such as Namibia being underdogs but now they have overtaken us, the problem here being that our farmers are reluctant to give their all to commercial farming but rather they do cattle farming to sell with the purpose to fix their sort term personal problems,” added Dioka.
When quizzed whether farmer’s reluctance to venture into commercial farming could be linked to late payments, Dioka said farmers should know that the markets are only able to pay after 30 or 60 days.
“The real issue here is about having a clearer vision, a sector strategy that everyone identifies with it and to say we are going to develop the cattle industry ,and we are going to develop the beef industry because these two as much as they depend on each other they are totally different,” said Dioka.
He further said as a result of failing to commercialize the beef industry, the country now find itself exporting value and jobs and also losing the source of origin.
“If there is one product that we could have harnessed great is Botswana beef, so what other countries are doing is increasing their market share but in our in case, we have never been even more than 5% and that should tell us that we are not anywhere near the best,” said Dioka.
Last year, government promised that it will open up its beef industry to allow farmers to export their meat directly.
The state-owned BMC is currently the sole entity licensed to export beef, with farmers complaining they are forced to sell to the loss-making organization for low prices and that payment often comes late.
At the time, the then Minister Edwin Dikoloti said in parliament that a meat industry regulatory authority will be created in order to facilitate the liberalization of exports.
“All processes necessary for the establishment of the regulatory are earmarked for completion by July 2020,” he said.
Like its neighbors South Africa and Namibia, Botswana is a big exporter of beef, and was the ninth largest beef exporter to the European Union in 2019, though its earnings from beef exports have dropped from $130 million in 2010 to $80 million in 2018.