The country’s sole beef exporter – Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is objecting a proposal by Namibia to import live-cattle from here amid a severe drought decimating the country’s herds and threatening beef export deals with China and some European countries.
Namibia became the second African country after South Africa to meet China’s stringent import conditions for bone-in beef last year and there are fears it may lose from the lucrative deal.
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) says its position is that, live-cattle exports out of Botswana should be considered only when excess national processing capacity is addressed and only when proper regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the country against exploitation and erosion of national herd.
It is not clear at what stage the Namibian state-owned meat processing and marketing firm Meatco is regarding talks with Botswana.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, the BMC Chief Strategy Officer, Brian Dioka, said cattle supplies at the BMC have been evasive for a long time.
He added that this is due to varied issues that include, among others, fatigued confidence by farmers on the BMC as the highest off-taker of Botswana cattle, a worrying decline of national herd due to paltry production parameters, long spells of drought as well low commerciality within the beef value chain.
Dioka stated that while the effects are glaringly seen at the BMC, the entire beef sub-sector is drained more so that processing capacity has been increasing over the years. He observed that the numbers of cattle in Botswana have regressed to a point of threatening even the breeding stock.
He said the sum total of this, has left the country with excess-capacity leading to some operations to close shop (just as it happened with BMC Francistown) and in the same nerve national labor force.
“The more we get our product across to be blended with other beefs, we risk losing this unique selling point without any prospects of recovery,” he said.
Dioka stated that live-cattle exports, if introduced without any regulatory frameworks nor regard to caution or information, will certainly push Botswana out of the “table of reputable global beef exporters”, and also risks ridding-off the country’s hard earned reputation and competitive advantage.
“A decision to introduce added-competition through live-cattle export of same raw material or cattle, to an already excessively under-utilized processing capacity locally, can only erode the sub-sector even further and defeat any efforts of food security since all downstream beneficiation,” said Dioka.
Currently Lobatse plant capacity utilization alone is below 60 percent, while at the time of closure Francistown was averaging about 40 percent capacity utilization.
He further stated that since all downstream beneficiation-activities such as value-addition of the local beef value chain will be exported and in the same confine Botswana to only being a “primary-producer” while other nations become highly industrious in the area of manufacturing.
Dioka further stated that at current, Botswana beef makes one of the sought out product globally given its high-compliance portfolio or status as well being differentiated by its source-of-origin and taste.