The junior minister at the ministry of Agriculture and Food Security – Beauty Manake has told Parliament that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) will not be abandoned by Government for a new owner instead it will undergo some management changes to ensure farmers benefit the most from their cattle.
Earlier this month the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka said Government had taken a decision to engage a management company to take over the running of the BMC with effect from April 2020, a pronouncement that caused confusion on whether the government is letting go the meat agency.
Some concerns and misgivings among Parliament legislators included, what would happen to current employed staff of the BMC should the management company taking over choose to abandon the current organisational structure. Another concern included what if the management company expected to take over decides to bring its own people and unconventional methods of doing business to beef market in Botswana.
The measure, as explained by Manake this week, is intended to protect the interest of all stakeholders, including farmer.
“We are not selling BMC to the Chinese, we are not selling it to the Americans and or we are not privatising it soon. We are fixing it so that it is in a better state. The BMC is a very important entity in Botswana and the decision that has been taken by Government to ensure that Batswana get the right prices for their cattle and also multiply their cattle as it is supposed to be the case.”, Manake said.
“In Africa Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland are the countries with the European Union (EU) Status of Approval to supply the EU market with Beef. We want to make sure BMC rewards Batswana properly hence why it is important for us that we fix BMC to a point that you get the true value of your cattle. Even people who do not have cattle will start having trust in them. The real reason why we feel it’s important we fix BMC or put it in a status where Batswana will benefit, is because we believe that it is a sector that will bring about wealth creation amongst Batswana,” Manake said.
The Junior Minister continued to reiterate the Minister of Finance statement that it will not be business as usual, as there will be changes. She said “it will not be business as usual; we are hoping for a better future because we are not just going to be talking about production, we are talking about the whole value chain and also bringing in the technologies that will improve how we do business. We have a lot of research that we are going to ensure that the knowledge and opportunities will be drawn after them and shared with the relevant people to enjoy from.”
However, the Junior Minister feels the budget proposed for the Agricultural sector is not sufficient to meet the need of the sector. She said “the budget as per our view at the Ministry it is not enough but we will utilise what we have to do everything right and after getting everything right with regards to Agricultural production we will be able to request for more now looking at the fact that we are growing and there is progress.”
According to the Junior Minister Government has already awarded the project for the construction of Silos in Pandamatenga to help reduce Post harvest losses.
Challenges to the sector included electricity tariffs which Manake highlighted were too high and making it harder to produce as well as access land. On access to land the junior minister pleaded with sister ministries to consider being quick and allowing access to land with fertile soils and potential for underground water.