Botswana secures market for FMD-prone beef

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE- The beef industry in Botswana is expected to return to profitability following an announcement by Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia, that the country has started selling beef from areas prone to foot and mouth disease (FMD).

The beef is destined for countries such as Kuwait, Mozambique and Vietnam.

The announcment is a boost to the country’s meat industry, especially the national beef exporter, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).

The BMC registered a loss of P290.9 million in 2012, following another loss of P233.5 million in 2011.

The heavy losses were not exclusively attributed to the FMD outbreak but also to BMC’s de-listing from the European Union market.

But when addressing Ngamiland farmers in north western Botswana, Ralotsia said BMC has reported that many countries are showing interest in buying Botswana beef, adding that this could turn the struggling parastatal’s fortunes around.

“We have to give the international community assurance that the government has committed itself to ensure our abattoir is profitable and can be trusted with its produce. I also believe if we can have a processing plant it will add value to our beef, so let us be in this together going forward,” said the minister.

Botswana’s main importer of beef is the European Union (EU), which only buys beef from the southern part of the country that is FMD-free. The minister said Botswana was also in talks with more countries to open foreign markets, noting that if such deals are sealed the country’s beef industry would not only return to profitability but would also improve prices for farmers.

According to the minister, the last FMD outbreak in Ngamiland was in September 2015.

“I am happy to learn that since September 2015, there haven’t been any new FMD outbreaks. This, therefore, means you have to apply yourselves well. I would like to thank Ngamiland farmers for their effort in the fight against FMD; you need to be congratulated,” he said.

He called on farmers to avail themselves and assist veterinary officials “whenever there is that need because it is you who are in business and consequently want good results”.

Cattle from Ngamiland farmers are slaughtered at the Maun abattoir while those from the southern part of the country are slaughtered at the Lobatse abattoir.

According to Ralotsia, the country still has a long way to go in assuring customers that cattle slaughtered and meat sold from the abattoir are free of the FMD, considering that there has been a misguided belief that the abattoir sells and specialises in meat from FMD-infested cattle.

He said the misconception that meat from Maun abattoir has FMD despite being thoroughly inspected is a predicament.

“We have a mammoth task to assure them that when we finally reach a point of slaughtering an animal it means it is free of the disease,” he explained.

Ralotsia also revealed that the government wants to privatise the BMC, hence it is holding consultative meetings with farmers on the matter. The targeted abattoirs are those in Lobatse and Francistown.

In the case of Lobatse BMC, the minister said the government intends to run a partnership between the government and some private investors, while the Francistown abattoir would be sold. He said the reason behind privatising BMC is that it is not making profit.

Ngamiland farmers were delighted that the Maun abattoir will not be privatised. A farmers’ association representative, Mokadi Masedi, told the minister that farmers have agreed that government should give them enough time to consult among themselves on the proposed privatisation of some of the BMC abattoirs.

Ralotsia promised that some areas in Ngamiland, which have proven to be free of the disease for a long time, will be declared green zones, meaning they can now sell to outside markets. He said once this has been confirmed, they will notify the World Organisation for Animal Health so that such areas may be officially declared green zones.

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