Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Government finally breaking BMC monopoly 

Plans to take away the Botswana Meat Commission monopoly have already started as Parliament prepares to table the Meat Regulatory Authority (MIRA) amendment bill. The Ministry of Agriculture announced last week that it will hold consultative hybrid meetings across the country in relation to MIRA. The result is that  for the first time since 1965, BMC will face up to competition from new entrants who will also be able to export Botswana beef. The objective of MIRA Bill is to re-enact with amendments the Livestock and Meat Industry Act, to strengthen the regulatory framework for the livestock and meat industry by establishing a regulatory authority intended to create a conducive business environment in the beef sector. The Bill is also aimed at regulating and protecting the interests of both farmers and consumers, while attracting foreign direct investment in the meat industry.

The Bill will therefore regulate, in accordance with regulated sector legislation, the control of sale of livestock, grading, packaging and labelling of livestock and meat products, licensing of abattoirs and meat processors, control the importation of livestock and meat products. It will also regulate the imposition of levies in respect of livestock or meat products, control the importation and exportation of livestock and meat products, promotion of research, development and innovative across the livestock and meat industry value chains and promotion of livestock and meat production and quality assurance programmes.

On issues relating to pricing, the Bill states that in consultation with the Authority, prescribe the prices for any category or class of livestock or meat product and as such prices shall be published in the Government Gazette and a local newspaper circulating in Botswana. According to the Bill, a person shall not sell livestock or any meat product of any category or class in Botswana or elsewhere at any price, other than the prescribed prices for such category or class of the livestock or meat product.

The functions of the Authority shall be to develop, implement and monitor strategies and plans designed to achieve and maintain food security by promoting the export of livestock and meat products and further improve efficiency in meat product and processing. It shall control the marketing of livestock and meat products, to regulate the grading, packaging and labeling of livestock and meat products and to licence abattoirs and col storages.

The authority will also be empowered to issue, amend, suspend or revoke licenses’, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed, levy fees for licenses and inspections as it be prescribed, refuse any application for a licence if such application does not meet such requirements as may be prescribed and monitor compliance to such standards and requirements as may be prescribed. Asked to comment on the latest development, chief operations officer at BMC Brian Dioka provided a mixed reaction to the establishment of MIRA which is expected to deal the Commission a serious blow as its monopoly on beef export will be a thing of the past.

“Our position as BMC is that we accept the establishment of MIRA more so that it was done through a thorough consultative process; very openly since 2017…However, we believe that because this is new thing, there are areas of improvement; those that the Bill can consider as it goes towards stage of being formalized…” He added that: there are certain aspects of the Bill that could be improved to protect the interests of Botswana beef…” Dioka also stated that: “Secondly we believe that the bill should not take the position of a livestock regulator but rather regulate commercial interests within the Botswana value chain.”

Dioka further stated that: “These are areas that we could consider for improvement, but all and all we accept the establishment of MIRA and we believe that it is necessary for a sector that has existed for a  very long time, and we believe in integrity in the sector which has existed for a long time and we believe that a regulatory authority brings orderliness and well informed decision making around the sector…”

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