Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has lost close to P73 million due to measles after failure by communal farmers to build toilets at their farms.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BMC, Dr Akolang Tombale, told journalists at a press conference that if more farmers do not build toilets there are chances that the loss will increase.
He said measles is caused by human waste which cattle consume, particularly those from communal areas. Tombale said more farmers must be urged to build toilets as meat diagnosed with measles is costly to process and cannot be sold to the lucrative European market, the local market only absorbing it at a lower price.
He said if rains do not come and with persistent droughts more cattle are likely to be affected.
“The drought that we are facing leads to cattle eating everything that is human related. Between June and July measles was high on cattle that we killed and since then it has been reduced up to 10%,” he said.
Tombale said government is so concerned with high rate of measles so much so that a taskforce led by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and including among others the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Ministry of Local Government (MLG) has been formed to fight measles. He said members of the public may end up being provided with pills that kill the tapeworm that transfers measles from human waste to animals.
He said in weeks to come there will be a vigorous campaign against measles in the national media.
Tombale described measles as a threat to beef market.
Stephen Ghani, who is responsible for strategy, projects and innovations, said the measles problem is one of human behaviour and can only be controlled by humans by breaking its lifecycle through the use of toilets. He said in Zimbabwe, the measles problem is at 3% because people there have toilets in every settlement as the government intervened.
Commenting on the progress of BMC in finding new markets, Tombale said so far they have signed memoranda of agreement with Kuwait and other Gulf States and they have also signed a deal with Hong Kong. He described the latest catch as high value markets which are in demand for Botswana beef but he cautioned that BMC must first get its house in order so that it is not found wanting.
He said by next year, if things are done correctly, there will be a break even. He said if the commission was not repaying government and commercial banks, the debt of P70 million it could be doing well.
For his part, Chief Finance Officer (CFO), Shyam Goteti said the commission was doing well compared to last year. He said by December, they expect to have made P1 billion in revenue.