Not too long ago, the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) was collaborating with the Gantsi District Council (GDC) on a project to construct a multi-purpose meat-processing plant in Gantsi Township. The project has not been shelved but has had to be put on hold to allow a wide-ranging national consultation process to provide guidance.
BMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Akolang Tombale, says that the abattoir project “got caught up” in the study on the liberalisation of the beef sector. Since its establishment in 1955, BMC (which has abattoirs in Lobatse, Francistown and Maun) has been the sole player in this sector and following an outcry from farmers, a process has begun to consider how the sector can be liberalised to allow more players into the field. In 2016, the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia, barnstormed through the country to solicit ideas on what form this liberalization should take. The government’s own proposal is to reconfigure the current value chain by selling 49 percent of its shareholding in BMC Lobatse to a private company, leasing all of BMC Francistown to a private company and retaining full control of BMC Maun.
The Gantsi district is a special case which is why the BMC would want to establish physical presence there. The district has one of the largest cattle herds in the country but its real market is 700 kilometres away in BMC Lobatse. In the past, its then Council Secretary, Nelson Molepolole, told Sunday Standard that the district was looking for a partner to build an abattoir that would provide residents with quality and safe meat.
The partner came in BMC but the liberalisation process has put a spanner in the works. This comes after talks for setting up the abattoir have been concluded. In the past, Tombale has stated that once it complied with European Union standards, the Gantsi abattoir would be able to sell its products to any market in the world, including that of the EU itself. By itself, the BMC-GDC agreement was inadequate because the BMC Act has to be amended first – the Act confers a monopoly on BMC with regard to the export of beef. It is expected that one of the main outcomes of the liberalisation study process will be the amendment of the Act because there is no other way that the liberalisation can happen.