After many false promises, the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Maun abattoir started slaughtering cattle on the 31st of October 2011.
BMC Public Relations Officer, Tiro Kganela, said their target was to start with 80 animals per day and gradually reach 100 per day.
On whether the 80 cattle they are going to be slaughtering was the set target, Kganela conceded that it was not their target though not saying what the target was; BMC has always said that their target for Maun abattoir will be 150 cattle per day.
He cited some reasons for the short fall.
“From the beginning, farmers received a short notice so the turn up was low. The kick start collided with the Foot and Mouth Disease vaccination campaign, so the labour to drive the cattle to the loading point was the same labour to vaccinate the cattle,” he said.
Besides, he said that “some farmers are afraid to track their cattle to the loading point because they fear Mogau poisoning. This is a concern that they have raised during farmers meetings with BMC and Department of Veterinary Services and there is very little that can be done to mitigate the problem.”
The BMC PRO further said that in some areas cattle are in poor condition so some farmers prefer to sell after they have improved in weight.
On the challenges they are facing after the opening of the abattoir, Kganela said that some farmers feel BMC should not intervene in transport charges.
BMC have apparently put out adverts for transporters with bigger trucks to assist farmers by having those paying reasonable charges for transporting their cattle and this is bearing fruit according to him.
But some farmers apparently feel that they should be allowed to track their cattle to the abattoir as they have always done which does not argue well with disease control measures.
Besides that, he said that some farmers feel that conditions of animals are very poor in most areas and would hopefully want to sell after raining season when their condition had improved.
Kganela also said that too many cattle are to be sourced for slaughtering but abattoir was very small with a maximum capacity of 100 heads per day. This is despite the fact that BMC had initially said that Maun, BMC will be slaughtering 150 cattle per day when it starts operating.
Despite the assurances, some Ngamiland and Okavango famers are still not very sure that they will have a chance to have their cattle slaughtered at the abattoir.
This follows after similar promises in the past had ended with the abattoir either closing soon after opening for operations or not opening on set dates.
It is expected that the recent BMC and government’s ability to find markets in Angola and Zimbabwe for cattle from the country will relieve the abattoir of pressure from Okavango and Ngamiland areas.