The General Manager of Multi Species Abattoir Botswana, formerly called the Botswana Ostrich Abattoir, Freeman Mogaga says that they are optimistic of being granted a European Union license allowing them to sell ostrich meat in the European market during the course of this month.
Mogaga said that, as soon as they get the EU license, they will start slaughtering ostriches in the abattoir alongside the cattle they are currently slaughtering.
He said that getting the license will be a great boast to the ostrich industry in the country as farmers already in the industry will be encouraged to increase their stock and new farmers encouraged to start.
Asked why it is important that they get EU license before they start operating, Mogaga said that the EU is by far the biggest market for ostrich meat in the world and that they pay far much better prices than can be obtained elsewhere.
On whether they will be enough ostriches to keep the abattoir running continuously, he confessed that there might not be enough birds when they start but that the fact that the abattoir will be operational will encourage those already in the industry to produce more birds for the market.
What makes him hopeful about the future of the industry, he said, is that some youths have been turning up at the plant and asking questions on how they can go about joining the industry, either as farmers or suppliers of ostrich feeds.
He added that this, in itself, shows that the industry has a future.
A Gaborone former ostrich farmer, however, differs with Mogaga. According to him the industry does not have a future as the government is very unwilling to support it as she is doing with cattle industry that she is pumping millions of pula into every year.
The farmer, who declined to be named, says it is this fact that has led to the abattoir initially closing and that he foresaw it closing again. Asked if the government has not by the introduction of the Dibete project where farmers are, amongst other things, taught ostrich husbandry helped the industry, the former ostrich farmer said, “That is not enough. Just wait and see; they will slaughter ostriches for only a few months then close.”
He said that they are currently indebted to banks because they have been brave to venture into the industry.
His advice to others who “might be tempted” to go into ostrich farming is “do so with great caution”.
The abattoir was in the past closed because there were not enough birds to slaughter.