Amid expedited payment days for cattle procurement and securing markets with some of the worlds’ largest beef consumers, the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is experiencing vast cattle slaughter rates.
Also considered the worst performing parastatal by the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), the BMC, has, in a rare occurrence, witnessed a significant increase in the number of cattle slaughtered in 2022 so far.
The Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Molebatsi Molebatsi, told parliament that the meat commission is performing well compared to the previous year and 2020. “The number of cattle slaughtered from January to February 2022 was 3029, compared to the same period last year where the commission slaughtered only 561,” the minister said. He added that the drastic increase in cattle slaughtered during the beginning of the year indicates that abattoirs are performing well in Botswana.
Molebatsi was responding to the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lobatse Dr Thapelo Matsheka’s question regarding the performance status of the BMC. The agricultural minister said that on the 31st of December 2021, the BMC recorded losses amounting to P106 million, unlike in December 2020 when it recorded a profit of P3.2 million. “This means that as of December 2021, the BMC recorded a huge loss, despite having slaughtered 19 671 cattle from the Lobatse and Maun abattoirs,” Molebatsi said. The minister was quoting unaudited financial statements, which have been a thorn for the meat commission when appearing before parliamentary committees.
Even though the corporation continues to drown in losses and owes billions to the government, it still receives money, a sight some opine of its futility. MP for Molepolole North Oabile Regoeng even suggested that the government part ways with the BMC citing how costly it is for them to maintain it.
Coincidentally, the meat commission’s transition from a parastatal to a commercial entity will begin this year. Parliament passed the BMC Transition Act of 2019, which Molebatsi said will be put into practice in the 1st Quarter of this financial year. The act states that the government will commercialize the meat commission, create a meat industry regulatory authority, and liberalize the meat export market. The transition, eagerly awaited by most, is deemed the panacea needed to rescue the BMC from its mires of dire performance.
However, Molebatsi said the transformative process cant happen when the commission has not found a leader. The headless parastatal cannot begin commercialization without a chief executive officer (CEO) who has not been appointed for a controversial amount of time. The food security minister assured the national assembly that by the end of March, a CEO will assume office. He said they are in talks with prospective candidates, though some come off as expensive.
The increase in slaughtered cattle also led to an increase in the money pumped into the commission’s abattoirs. “From January to February P20.1 million has been injected into BMC. In 2021, only P4.1 million was allocated,” Molebatsi said.
For now, it may seem as if the commission has struck gold. Matsheka said that even though the number of cattle slaughtered increased, and the BMC appears to be doing well, its operations spell losses. He stated that its cost structure, as it stands today, puts the parastatal in a position that won’t be sustainable in the future.