Government has rubbished claims that it is playing politics with its decision to re-open the Maun abattoir.
The Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, told The Sunday Standard on Friday that the decision has nothing to do with political gains by BDP, but a gesture to help farmers in the Ngami and Okavango.
The re-opening will help the pastoral farmers in the area by providing them with a reliable market for their cattle.
Molebatsi said that they think that it will be economically viable but that it will need a vigorous marketing strategy to get farmers to send their cattle to be slaughtered at the abattoir a thing which he says the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has undertaken to do.
“I admit that it will take vigorous marketing strategy to get farmers to send their cattle to the abattoir in order to make the project viable and fortunately the BMC has promised to do that,” he explained.
The Maun abattoir was closed in the mid 1990s after the outbreak of lung disease in Ngamiland and Okavango areas that led to the slaughter of cattle under the infamous government decision.
When in full production, the abattoir will slaughter 22, 000 cattle a year.
As a precautionary, after slaughter, the meat will be heated in order to kill viruses in the meat before it is sent to Lobatse abattoir, where it will be canned.
The equipment that heats the meat before it is sent for canning has cost taxpayers around P30 million which, Molebatsi stated, is another clear sign of the government’s commitment to nurturing the beef industry in the country.
Besides the precaution of heating the meat to kill disease viruses, he said cattle will not be driven to the abattoir or to the quarantines as used to be the case in the past but that they will be sent in sealed trucks to prevent them from spreading the disease as they are being transported to the abattoir.
He also said that cattle in the two areas of Ngamiland and Okavango will now be vaccinated against the disease three times a year as opposed to two times adding that Botswana Vaccine Institute has promised to provide even stronger dosage of medicine for such vaccination.
There is a school of thought that politics is involved with some arguing for the continued subsidising of transportation of cattle to the Francistown abattoir.
One beef expert argued that it does not make economic sense because the cattle population in the areas is now lower than what they used to be before the outbreak of the disease and the closure of the abattoir.
“This decision had no backing of any economist. I think it was made for political reasons and nothing else and is bound to fail just like the ostrich abattoir project which has dismally failed and the abattoir is now slaughtering cattle,” he stressed.
The decision to set up the ostrich abattoir was opposed by many in Parliament, including the former MP for Ngamiland Jacob Nkate, who posited that such an abattoir would not be sustainable because there were no many ostriches being reared for such a purpose whilst Botswana has the highest number of birds in the world.
It is estimated that the cattle head in the area is around 250, 000.