The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Micus Chimbombi on Thursday shocked the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when he admitted that Botswana still imports some beef and beef products from outside, even though the country has been struggling to boost its beef exports over the last few years.
Though he could not divulge the exact figures of Botswana’s beef imports, Dr. Chimbombi admitted to the PAC on Thursday that though it still faces major challenges in exporting its beef, Botswana continues to import beef and beef products. He was responding to a question from a member of the PAC, Samson Guma Moyo who wanted to know whether government has carried out a comprehensive study to analyse beef imports and exports.
However, Dr. Chimbombi told the PAC that although the country is importing beef, the imports are relatively low when compared to exports. Botswana’s beef exports plummeted to all time lows in 2011 after its beef was banned from the European Union (EU) because of failure to comply with regulations. The EU ban was imposed after Botswana failed to record and digitally store the history of cattle that were targeted for export to EU. Documents passed to Sunday Standard have revealed that the European Union (EU) and Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) cited a combination of mismanagement, negligence and malfeasance on the part of the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) as behind the EU’s decision to remove Botswana Meat Commission (BMC)’s Lobatse and Francistown abattoirs from its list of approved export abattoirs.
After the delisting, Botswana was forced to look for alternative markets to sell its beef. In Africa, BMC, the country’s meat selling agency, exports beef to South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Commission has also established a lucrative market in Angola, but Namibia has proven to be a stumbling block as it recently shut its borders to Botswana’s beef exports, citing fears of contracting foot and mouth disease. As recent as April 2015, the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao expressed hope that on-going negotiations with Namibia over beef exports to Angola will bear fruit.
Though he was reluctant to state when negotiations will reach a breakthrough, Molao said Botswana authorities have been in earnest talks with their Namibian counterparts in bid to address their concerns over a possible spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD) should Botswana beef be exported to Angola through Namibia.
With increased globalization and regulation of global and regional trade, the demand for analytical capacity, information and knowledge of markets and trade-related legal issues has increased considerably. As such, Moyo implored the Ministry to consider carrying out thorough research on the needs of the country so as to make accurate demand and supply projections. For his part, Dr. Chimbombi revealed that his Ministry relies on data and statistics from various sources such as Statistics Botswana and Bank of Botswana (BoB) to make its projections.