Covid-19 blights troubled BMC

• Nkange MP says F/town abattoir was convenient for farmers in the North

Covid-19 blights troubled BMC

Covid-19 has stalled restructuring efforts at+

 cash-strapped Botswana Meat Commission, the Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Beauty Manake, told Parliament this week.

This means that the situation has not improved for the abattoir and meat processing parastatal three years after the closure of the Francistown branch owing to its overreliance on the Lobatse plant.

Answering a question from the MP for Nkange, Dr Never Tshabang, Manake conceded that there are problems at the BMC. “The Tutume Sub-District currently has access to three slaughter facilities in and around Francistown through which farmers can supply the domestic market,” she said.

“However, it is admitted that the closure of (the) Botswana Meat Commission Francistown abattoir denied them their preferred market, hence farmers who take their animals to Lobatse endure long distances.”

Dr Tshabang had asked if the ministry was aware that farmers in the Tutume Sub-District struggle to access markets for their livestock because of the closure of the Francistown BMC and now struggle to take their cattle to BMC abattoirs in Lobatse and Maun.

Manake told the House that although government remains alive to the challenges engulfing the BMC and has engaged a management company to aid restructuring, Covid-19 has slowed the process. “We had the Covid-19 crisis in the middle of negotiations (with the company)” which consequently disrupted the process, she said.

“My ministry consulted extensively before closing BMC Francistown. In February 2017, the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security consulted cattle producers around the country on the future of BMC facilities, which are Lobatse, Maun and Francistown respectively.”

After the consultations, she added, the Francistown abattoir was closed because of its low throughput and heavy reliance on the Lobatse abattoir for survival.

But inspite of the problems at the BMC, the government is still keen revive the parastatal and to realise some “return on investment and (for) the whole stakeholders of the beef value chain to benefit”, Minister Manake said.

She added that short-term interventions for farmers are export of live cattle and utilisation of existing private abattoirs that are ready to export beef.