The European Union diplomats who visited the Botswana Meat Commission facilities in Lobatse on Thursday said they were impressed but work done at BMC, but said could not ‘judge’ as their mission was to be informed on the country’s beef industry and its importance to the economy.
Head of Delegation of the European Union to Botswana, Ambassador Gerard McGovern, said after the tour of the BMC abattoir ‘we have been impressed by what we saw’.
McGovern also acknowledged the challenges the beef industry is facing.
“The purpose of our visit was to get informed on Botswana beef and its importance to the Botswana economy,” he said, adding that they were not technical people, but will be reporting back to Brussels.
“The industry is going through transformation and it is a business and there are challenges,” McGovern added, saying he has the impression that Botswana is up to the challenge.
The challenge he is referring to is the de-listing of Botswana from exporting beef to the lucrative market because of non compliance with strict EU rules.
Until the suspension of beef exports early this year owing to issues like traceability of animals, the EU has been Botswana’s beef destination of choice.
Beef is the fourth largest export commodity accounting for 3.5 percent of export revenues. Between 2006 and 2010, total beef exports to the EU stood at P1.9 billion, peaking at a high of P553 million in 2009.
The two BMC abattoirs in Lobatse and Francistown have been removed from the EU list of approved export abattoirs since January 2011 because of compliance issues.
Article 12 of EU Regulation No 854/2004 requires that fresh meat may only be imported into the EU from abattoirs that appear on the EU’s list of approved export abattoirs.
As a result, the BMC projected a half billion Pula loss in revenue for the first three quarters of 2011 and an almost 50 percent drop in throughput from 187,000 head in 2010 to less that 100,000 head in 2011.
However, Botswana government and BMC officials are bullish Botswana will bounce back as stakeholders are currently addressing compliance issues behind the scenes.
Botswana is expected to make an application in the New Year and the hope is that EU will re-register the two abattoirs after they impressed the European diplomats after the tour that included a feedlot some few kilometers from BMC head office.
BMC is currently feeding over 5000 cattle in Lobatse although slaughter continues for the South African market.
The feedlot started in 2009 and the cattle come on a 40 ÔÇô 90 day period before slaughter for the EU market.
BMC Executive Manager Livestock Procurement Clive Marshall the livestock is currently sourced from the region mainly South and Zambia. Botswana does not produce a lot of cattle feed, which has forced the operators of the feedlot contracted by the corporation to seek resources outside the country.
Marshall said the raw materials for the cattle feed is checked so they meet the EU requirements.
He added that last year, BMC slaughtered 180, 000 cattle and reveled if there ‘were no issues with the EU’, the feedlot could have stored 200, 000 this year. Botswana currently has 16 registered feedlots.
Marshall, who boasts of experience from Africa to Europe, said: “The health of the cattle is the best I have ever seen”.
Despite the transformation and challenges the beef industry Botswana faces a bullish Marshall added: “I think when things come up, this will be a good business to be in”.
The delegation, which also visited other EU-supported projects, included McGovern, Ambassador of France, Genevi├¿ve Iancu, British High Commissioner Jennifer Anderson and German Ambassador Annett G├╝nther.