Saturday, July 13, 2024

BMC on a free fall

Hardly three months after former Botswana Meat Commission Chief Executive Officer David Falepau was forced to resign, farmers, some board and staff members are already asking: where’s the beef?

Industry stakeholders are almost united in questioning if there is any substance to the BMC turn-around strategy which has run into a corporate governance row and marketing strategies that may land Botswana beef in international ethical trade controversies.

The acting Chief Executive Officer, Ian Thompson, who was expected to guide the commission through the difficult period has gone on a seven week leave. The Sunday Standard is informed that before Thompson went on leave, he made a deal with JBS to sell Botswana Beef in the United Kingdom. The deal comes at a time when JBS, The world’s biggest exporter of meat by sales, faces the threat of losing some of its clients following another run-in with Greenpeace, the international environmental activist group over a report accusing JBS of sourcing beef from farms in the Amazon region that allegedly fail to comply with environmental laws, by either illegally deforesting or invading indigenous land. The controversy has already cost JBS an important customer, Tesco, the UK-based supermarket chain, which said it was no longer sourcing beef from the Brazilian company.

In an extensive report, Greenpeace alleged that the company’s cattle satellite monitoring system was not detailed enough and it was sourcing hundreds of cattle from farms that were illegally deforesting. Some were also coming from farms whose owners had invaded indigenous lands or were accused of slavery, Greenpeace said.

In particular, the group alleged that three JBS slaughterhouses had sourced nearly 700 animals from five farms banned by Ibama. JBS on the other hand said the farms mentioned were either wrongly identified, not on its list of suppliers or not on the Ibama banned list.

“This is the kind of company in whose hands we want to place the future of the BMC,” said one insider. Other industry watchers are worried that JBS are strictly commodity traders who sell on price to make commission without adding value through brand positioning and differentiation.

The cash strapped parastatal is also embroiled in a corporate governance controversy after a board member, who is responsible for the finance committee, was appointed BMC acting Chief Financial Officer for two months at an exorbitant rate of P1, 5 00 and hour under questionable circumstances. Sunday Standard is informed that the board member, who is responsible for his own payments, is claiming P 800, 000 for the two and a half stint as acting BMC Chief Financial Officer.

The cash strapped parastatal has also employed a sales and marketing manager from London at great cost and is reported to be currently working without a work permit. The parastatal is reported to be footing a huge bill in flight costs for the new manager who flies between London and Lobatse every fortnight.

The BMC spokesperson, Tiro Kganela, could not be reached for comment as his phone was off.

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