The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, DR Micus Chimbombi, has given all the stake holders involved in the Botswana Ostrich Abattoir up to the 16 of March,2009 to come up with clear strategies on how they plan to move forward from the current situation of running business at the loss making abattoir.
Chimbombi said this at an Ostrich Stakeholders meeting held at the Ministry’s Agribusiness offices on Thursday morning.
According to him, it is now government’s feeling that the situation of the unsustainability of the facility, which currently prevails at the P20 million abattoirs could not be allowed to continue forever.
The government, which has constructed the building, said that it would like all the stakeholders to come up with clear business plans on how they plan to maintain the buildings, which have in the past gone with leaking roofs because of no proper maintenance.
He said that it is the government’s wish to see to it that those running it do so in such a way that it is adequately maintained and not to depend on the government to do so.
He also disclosed that it is imperative that they come up with such a plan before Senn Foods’ slaughter contract ends in July.
Senn Foods is currently slaughtering cattle at the abattoir, in connivance with the Botswana Ostrich Company, as there are no ostriches to slaughter.
The Permanent Secretary also disclosed that the abattoir has currently been removed from exporting products to European Union markets in order to avoid EU doing it themselves.
The EU was targeted as the biggest market for ostrich byproducts.
Commenting on the issue, former president Ketumile Masire, who is also an ostrich farmer and a share holder of the Botswana Ostrich Company, said that the idea of coming up with the abattoir was made in order to diversify agriculture in Botswana and that he does not think it will be wise to let this noble idea die.
Masire also said that he does not see the reason why the government, as the owner of the facility, should let it idle instead of helping Batswana by utilising it.
Chilisana Marobela, a member of BOC and speaking on the side lines of the meeting, chastised the Botswana government for having failed to play its part in helping the industry to grow in the country.
For example, he said, the government had not provided extension workers to help farmers who had ventured into ostrich farming. He said this had led to many farmers who had ventured into the business to wallow in debts that they had accumulated after venturing into the business and the abattoir turning into a white elephant because there are no ostriches to slaughter.
Asked if the current project at Dibete, where there is a government facility to teach would-be farmers the skills of ostrich farming, is not a move in that direction, Marobela admitted that it was a commendable move in the right direction but which has come too late.
“This is a move in the right direction but it has come late after the damage has already been done,” he said.
According to Marobela, the government should have started it soon after the abattoir was built, not years later.
“It was wrong to start that center after so many years had passed after the abattoir had been constructed,” he said.
When a motion calling for the construction of the abattoir was first tabled in Parliament some years ago, Jacob Nkate, the current Minister of Education, who was then a Member of Parliament for Ngami, opposed it on grounds that the country did not have ostriches reared on a commercial basis but the motion was, nevertheless, carried.