The Botswana Meat Commission Tannery ceased to operate as a Wetblue Plant in 2006, its closure prompted by environmental concerns and frequent breakdowns and blockage of the effluent pipe line to the evaporation ponds, Parliament heard on Monday.
The Lobatse residential area nearby had grown to the extent that it was now surrounding the Plant, with the smell from the Plant increasingly becoming a concern to the residents.
“In order to combat this, either a major refurbishment of the Plant was required or the Plant had to be relocated to a new site outside the town,” the Minister of Agriculture Degraaf said.
The two issues required considerable capital which the Commission could not afford especially at the prevailing market prices for wet blue hides, thus making the project non-viable.
With the closure of the Plant came some local companies which showed interest in buying the Plant although the arrangement fell through as they could not meet one of the requirements.
The requirement stipulated that should the tannery remain in operation it would later after sometime need to be relocated to a suitable location outside of town.
“These companies felt that buying the Tannery and then later on relocating would be too costly for them,” Degraaf added.
The tannery at the time was contributing negatively towards the overall finances of the Botswana Meat Commission.
“The Tannery machine is still there but dilapidated,” Degraaf said, adding that some of the machine drums are being utilised for wet salting as hides are now sold in wet salted form.
He would not be drawn into discussing the Phakalane Plant because it belongs to Tannery Industries, a private entity and as such he did not know what happened to its property.
Despite the envisaged Leather Park becoming a hot topic, Degraaf could not reveal whether his ministry would spend on it.
He said he was in consultation with the Ministry of Trade and Industry who are responsible for the Leather Park project.
During his State of Nation Address at the end of the year 2013, President Ian Khama said as part of the Economic Diversification Drive strategy, government would process a P225m leather production facility in Lobatse.
The president said land had been allocated for the project.
“P225m is a budget figure from the studies done so far. But the budget figures are subject to variation as more information becomes available in the Leather Park project,” Degraaf said.
He was answering a question from Maun East Member of Parliament Frank Ramsden.
Lobatse is considered a ghost town following the closure of the Tannery, Lobatse Teachers Training College and with Botswana Meat Commission struggling.