Thousands tonnes of packaged meat from the Botswana Meat Commission, (Maun plant) on transit to foreign markets are said to be stuck at Port Beira and might have to be disposed.
This follows a new outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) which was detected from cattle at Dinonyane crush load bay, situated in the environs of Lake Ngami in the North West district (NWD). The discovery, the first in a period of two years, is believed to have come at time when farmers were adamant that the disease had been contained and done with. However their hopes were this week quashed as this now means the abattoir will for an indefinite period suspend buying their cattle, meat exportation and let alone to slaughter. The revelation was made by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Resources Patrick Ralotsia when briefing councilors at the North West District Council (NWDC) on Thursday.
The minister stated that in the two years that the disease had not re-emerged, the country had managed to secure markets from as far as Vietnam, Kuwait, Mozambique, to mention but a few. And with the current turn of events, he said it is highly likely that the country might lose valuable clients, most of who were not easily convinced to buy from a FMD infested area, also prone to other cattle diseases, adding that of recent also there had been reports of an outbreak of another disease known as bont teak which invaded the district, thus killing lots of cattle in a very short time. However the disease was dealt with in no time.“We are bound to lose big time this time around as these countries are likely to pull out. We had worked extremely hard to convince them to trust us with our produce, and now this. And while it is a well known fact that this disease is normally spread by buffaloes, I want to tell you that this time around the blame lies with farmers as it has been realized that they do not bring all their cattle during vaccination. This is an unfortunate situation which could have been avoided and now we all have to bear the brunt”, said Ralotsia.
However farmers attending the meeting received the news with mixed emotions and refused to take the blame. Instead they blamed it on the Department of Veterinary Services for having failed to deploy their personnel at areas suspected of the disease on time for it to be contained before spiraling. The visibly infuriated Ngamiland Integrated Farmers Association chairperson Simon Bojosi said the minister’s attacks on them was a toned version of the truth as he knows efforts have been made to help end the disease. He told of how they had on numerous occasions made suggestions and recommendations to the ministry on how they think the disease can be eradicated but were never taken seriously by the rightful authority and that there had never been rapid responses on the matter. He said “We live with so much anger within ourselves. And there are times when we feel so undermined by the people in power as they are cagey with a lot of issues. They always preach transparency but fail to practice it. I am afraid we might be headed for disaster if this tendency does not end”. A meeting that was scheduled to be addressed by BMC Chief Executive Officer Dr Akolang Tombale meant to appraise farmers with market performance of Maun BMC as well as to receive feedback and desires for business had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour to allow for the minister’s address of the council, something with Bojosi saw as improper as they were not alerted of the changes.
Meanwhile NWD councilors also pointed an accusing finger at DVS for having thought the disease will be easily contained while the department is itself not well resourced in terms of equipment and workforce. They said there was no way that officials could have performed diligently without the much needed resources. A suggestion was made by councilor Mpoke Karapo that the government should privatize the manning of the buffalo fence, and for it to be zoned based on kilometers.