Kweneng farmers who have been struggling with access the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) due to the distance involved will no longer encounter that problem since the BMC built a field office which was launched in Molepolole this week.
“This office marks a new chapter in the restructuring and transformation of the BMC,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Johnie Swartz. “Up until now, the BMC has only been present in Lobatse and Francistown. For a country as big as Botswana with its limitation in infrastructure, this was not adequate.”
Officiating at the opening ceremony, Swartz said the move to open a field office in Molepolole should give the Kweneng producers a viable alternative and will also allow the BMC to compete for the resources at grass roots by offering a package that includes service with support, advice, export parity pricing and, most importantly, security of producers’ payment.
Swartz said the BMC will identify areas within Kweneng and surrounding areas that have low producer participation. By grouping and organizing these farmers, he said, the office will try and unite these areas and assist farmers to market their cattle.
The Minister said the Kweneng field office is the first of a number of field offices that will be opened, adding that more will be opened in Ghanzi, Tsabong, Mahalapye, Serowe and Maun later this year. He said such offices will bring the BMC closer to farmers.
“The offices will allow them to apply for quotas, collect information on BMC schemes, get support in sourcing transport and permits as well as collecting their cheques from these offices after selling cattle to the BMC,” he said.
More importantly, Swartz stated, the offices will be a base from which the BMC will conduct workshops with farmers on what kind of animals the BMC wants as well as to assist farmers in how to tell which animals are ready for the market and to give advice on ways of preparing those that are not yet ready.
Swartz highlighted that this is one of the many reforms that the BMC and the Government are putting in place to assist the producers. He said the removal of the measles penalty means that animals found with measles were no longer paid less than those without measles.
“The other one was the amendment of grading regulations to value less fatty animals, which helped farmers to get good grades for the majority of their animals,” he said. He added that it must be noted that we now see more and more of our cattle from the veldt getting top grades with grades 3 and 4 virtually disappearing. This, he said, is a good development which must be encouraged. He stressed that with careful management and breeding, farmers can achieve the top grades of prime and super directly from the veldt.
He said the introduction of export parity pricing of prime, super, grades 1 and 2, is another major change that has recently been made, adding that the farmers are now paid the equivalent of what they would get for their cattle were they to sell them to South Africa, the highest paying regional market. “The objective of all these changes is to make the business of beef cattle farming viable,” he emphasized, adding that cattle farming is a business that can be run profitably and sustainably.
Further, Swartz said, as government, they are creating an environment in which farming can be undertaken as a viable, respectable and fulfilling business. He stated that it is incumbent upon the farmers to do the actual business and improve their livelihood hence generating wealth for the country through this business.
“We are aware that we are not yet where we want to be with the creating of a conducive environment for farming. Many of our areas are still without infrastructure like access to roads and communication facilities.” He said the government was also aware that issues such as veterinary permits and police permits are still a challenge in some areas.
“These issues we shall endeavour to address in order to continue to make the business of beef farming not only viable but also farmer friendly,” he added.
Swartz assured the producers that his Ministry is working with the BMC to restructure it so as to be more efficient. In that regard, he said, the BMC is working to automate their plant as well as engage an Implementation Technical Partner (ITP) who will help achieve abattoir best practices.
“The ITP from Australia is due to report next month for a two year period,” he said. “These people have a wealth of experience in running abattoirs and should help in taking the BMC to greater heights.”