Thursday, July 2, 2020

Botswana to play catch-up on the international beef market

While the Botswana government has taken an introspective approach to “fix” the local beef industry and its structures, its nearest competitors South Africa and Namibia may end the first quarter of the year with a firm grip on regional and international beef market.

Indications are that the two neighbouring countries are already way ahead when it comes to securing market for their respective beef, an area Botswana used to be well respected on.

This past week, Botswana’s neighbour on the west – Namibia announced a breakthrough as it became the first African country to export red meat to the United States of America. 25 tonnes of beef were sent to Philadelphia, after two decades of concerns over safety regulations and logistics. The United States tops the world list for red meat consumption per head and U.S. Department of Agriculture states that Americans consume on average 120 kgs of meat per person, making meat exports to the country a prime target. Under the agreement, the US will import boneless meat, raw beef cuts in frozen or chilled form.

Agriculture contributes about 5 percent to Namibia’s economy but farming including cattle raising contributes to nearly two-thirds of the population’s income. In 2019, Namibia exported about 12,400 metric tonnes of meat to Norway, Britain, the European Union and Chinese markets. The target would be the massive U.S. fast food industry and franchises like McDonald’s, the minister said.

Meanwhile South Africa on the southern part lifted its two-month trade ban of livestock due to Foot and Mouth disease outbreak in November 2019, with some affected still remaining under quarantine. This means South Africans are now open to participate in the market provided their present veterinary health certificates before trade can begin.

Botswana on another hand is preparing to overhaul its own old local beef industry structures a move that could, in the interim, leave local cattle farmers at a disadvantage.

The Ministry of Agriculture is reported to have centred its deliberations on fixing the structures surrounding the local beef industry. Junior Minister at Agriculture Sethebe Manake has since told Parliament that a management consultant will be engaged in the day to day running state owned meat export agency – Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).

Manake said ‘fixing the beef economy is not a day’s work. A holistic approach needs to be taken into consideration, so that we draw value in some of the supporting structures that we already have. There is so much within the beef industry that we have not maximised the assets that we have.”

In the meantime, Manake says the ministry has secured a market in the Middle East for small stock being both goats and sheep.

“We have an investor who is ready to invest over P600 million and this is going to motivate our farmers to start producing quality carcasses which will actually be exported to this market and will ensure that Batswana get better returns when it comes to small stock production”

The Agriculture ministry is reported to be collaborating with the unnamed investors and working with them to come up with a sustainable supply chain management plan which will ensure that nobody gets cheated in the whole supply chain.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.