The multi-million ostrich abattoir, which has been standing unused for some time, is likely to be opened next year. This was revealed by the Acting Director in the Department of Animal Health, Stanley Mosielele.
He said they will, early next year, sign a lease agreement with an unidentified local company, which will run the abattoir.
The director added it is their hope that the number of birds, which currently stands at 5,507, will be enough to keep the abattoir running successfully.
He strongly denied that the industry has been a big failure, saying that it is only that the industry is still in its infancy stage that it has experienced some problems.
Mosielele said that there are currently 18 ostrich farmers in the country, which he says gives them hope that they will supply the abattoir with slaughter birds regularly enough to keep it going.
One local farmer, Jannie Willems, who runs Talana Farms, said it was a welcome development that the abbatoir will be reopened, hoping that the industry will grow.
Willems pointed out that, currently, local ostrich farmers are not working hard to produce more birds because there is no market for them.
For example, he said currently Talana Farms has 2,500 birds ready for slaughter in his farm, whilst another thousand would be ready for market in a matter of months.
He added that if there was a market, he would easily be able to pick up production on his farm and that he has no doubt that the other farmers would do likewise.
“Open the abattoir and we will provide the birds for slaughter and prove that this is a viable business,” he stressed.
However, he warned that it will be worthwhile that cattle are slaughtered along side the ostriches for a year or two whilst farmers double up their production with the encouragement of a running abattoir.
Asked if he thinks the business is worth while in the country, Williems said that it is, though it is more demanding.
“Ostrich farming is not like the type of farming that most people are used to, for example, cattle, sheep, goats farming as it needs a lot of care and supervision but besides that, it is a viable business,” he revealed.
On the industry being expensive he said it depends on how one does it as it would be cheaper if, for example, one small farmer buys chicks then feeds them till they are ready for slaughter instead of getting involved in buying hatching equipment, which is expensive to buy.
The ostrich abattoir had stopped operating mainly because of lack of slaughter birds.
This has landed a lot of people who had gone into the industry with high hopes of making quick bucks saddled with debts which they are even now still battling to pay to financial institutions such as CEDA.
Sources in the industry say that the concerned farmers are currently trying to get government to bail them out as she has done in the past and bailed out cattle farmers amongst others.
Farmers say government needs to support the industry if she wants to see it flourishing and creating employment for Batswana and earning foreign exchange for the country.
“We should not be penalised for having taken this brave step of venturing into the untested waters of ostrich farming but should rather be encouraged as this is a way of diversifying our economy,” said one farmer.
The decision to set up an ostrich abattoir in the country has received lukewarm reception in the country as people felt that though Botswana is said to be home to the largest number of wild ostriches in the world, it did not have enough domesticated birds that could support an abattoir.
It is estimated that there are about 70, 000 wild ostriches in Botswana compared to less than 4000 domesticated ones.