Cattle farmers are up in arms that they have to wait until the cows come home before getting their paychecks and the cash strapped Botswana Meat Commission may soon be asking: “Where’s the beef?”
The embattled Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), which continues to record consecutive losses in millions of Pula, is reportedly struggling to pay farmers, The Telegraph has learnt.
Farmers claim that when they asked what was holding up their paychecks, BMC management could not give satisfactory answers.
It has since emerged that the BMC acted swiftly and wrote farmers cheques last Friday following an inquiry by The Telegraph on the same day. This publication sought to establish, among others, why BMC had delayed to pay farmers within schedule. This was after sources revealed that the commission’s offices were inundated with calls from producers demanding payments.
One of the farmers, Mbesi Chiepe expressed concern that they had to wait for a long time for payment after selling cattle to the BMC.
“We hire people who transport our cattle from our farms and we have to pay them with money from BMC payment. Under normal circumstances, the waiting period should not be more than three days. But as we speak, I had to borrow money from somewhere to pay these people,” he said.
Chiepe also added that as producers they have to buy supplements “so that we can feed the remaining cattle but we are unable to do so because we receive payment very late – something which is not part of the BMC tradition”.
It has since emerged that the BMC waits for payment from the market it supplies with beef and then pay farmers.
While he admitted that he received his cheque from BMC last Friday dated 12 August 2013, Chiepe expressed shock that he had been to BMC offices several times and he was told that his cheque was not ready.
“I was shocked to discover that the cheque was dated 12 August 2013. What one can deduce from that is that these people did not have money all along and now they backdated the dates as if they have been in possession of our cheques,” said the concerned farmer.
Another farmer, Ndiwani Kenosi, also expressed the same concern as Chiepe.
“Yes it’s true that the cheques were dated 12 August 2013; I do not know really what they were trying to say or achieve; are they trying to say we collected the cheques late,” wondered Kenosi.
He added that many suppliers were issued with cheques on Friday.
“These are farmers who had long supplied BMC with cattle. Unlike in the past when we were issued with cheques three days after slaughtering our cattle, these days they are telling us that we should wait for not less than ten days in order for our cheques to be ready.”
But the Commission’s spokesperson, Tiro Kganela, denied that they were paying farmers late. He said the Commission continues to flight adverts in papers calling for famers to supply them with cattle; a sign that they are not failing to pay farmers.
“How can we ask farmers to supply us with cattle if we are unable to pay them,” he asked rhetorically. Kganela said they had experienced some technical glitches related to the payment of farmers in the Serowe region “but that has since been sorted out”.
In a statement late last year, BMC admitted that it had recorded consecutive operating losses of P107 million, P88 million and P206 million in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
BMC books of accounts also show a forecasted loss of P77 Million. The contributing factors to these losses have been both country internal and external namely:
ÔÇó Erosion of competitive market prices as a result of the financial meltdown of 2008-2009
ÔÇó Exchange risk fluctuations from International Trade
ÔÇó Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks in Botswana and neighbouring States
ÔÇó Loss of the lucrative European Market for the 18 months from the beginning of 2011 to date.
“The above mentioned have negatively affected both the cash situation and profitability of Botswana Meat Commission. It was in response to these financial difficulties that in 2012 the Government of Botswana gave the Botswana Meat Commission a loan of P104 million and, lately, P250 million,” the statement read in part.