Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) owes local farmers from across the country more than P160 million in delayed payments. Some local farmers have already written letters of demand through their lawyers threatening to take the corporation to court should they fail to meet their demands.BMC Spokesperson Brian Dioka has confirmed the figure, admitting that there have been delays in paying farmers. “Yes we do owe farmers that much in both delayed payments and those whose invoices have not matured for our 14 day turnaround time,” Dioka has said.Some of the farmers had not been paid for up to 60 days. “We have received letters of demand from some of the farmers who have lost patience but while there are such delays we continue to pay day in day out.” Dioka said as much as they wish to pay every farmer within the 14 day turnaround the corporation experiences challenges.“We appreciate that farmers want to be paid well on time but we have challenges that make it difficult to meet those expectations. Our biggest challenge remains supply. We need to stockpile first before we sell and with the little supply of cattle that we get from farmers, it takes time. Just to paint a picture, we need at least 3000 cattle to fill up a container of fillet. However, most farmers only sell in winter.”The BMC say they need to utilise at least 70 percent of the corporation’s capacity at a given time.“While we operate with an old plant that presents its problems, Input remains a major challenge for us,” Dioka.
BMC recently abandoned their initial plans to close for the entire month of December. The corporation had planned to shut down the Lobatse plant on November 20th 2019 pending further consultation with suppliers.
BMC, which had issued a memo in relation to the closure, reversed the decision. Dioka said the memo was never meant to be released.
“The BMC notes with regret a letter issued on the 15th November 2019 to its valued stakeholders on the Lobatse BMC plant’s planned closure… The BMC would like to retract the letter immediately and in place tender an apology to all stakeholders for inconvenience caused,” the BMC said.
The initial memo had read “as it is common practice, exhaustive consultations with supplier stakeholders often precedes any decision by the BMC to start/end production for the year and therefore 2019 production will not be an exception.”
Then Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Charles Esabu-Olupot had written to the chairpersons of Botswana National Beef Producers Union, Botswana Feedlot Association, all farmers, cattle agencies and cooperatives saying “due to low numbers of cattle and in order to cut down costs, the opinion of the Commission is to shut down from 20th November 2019 and reopen in January 2020.”
The notice indicated that however should there be any cattle available in the next two weeks, farmers should get in touch with the Commission so that arrangements could be made to open specifically for them. “A definite decision to shut down will be taken in the next two weeks after your feedback, “reads the letter to the farmers. Earlier this year President Mokgweetsi Masisi assured farmers in Ghanzi that his government was committed to ensuring that payment delays at the BMC are resolved. Masisi said he was aware of the challenges at BMC regarding payments to farmers. He said the Commission together with the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security had been directed to come up with solutions to reduce delays in payments. The President said his government had already commenced the transformation of the BMC with the view to reducing government stake in the commission.
“In the not so distant future we will finalize the restructuring of the BMC in realizing a sustainable future for farmers and meat producers,” Masisi told farmers at the Agricultural District Show.