The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) continues to be besieged by perennial challenges that inhibit its success and growth of the beef industry in the country, The Business Weekly has established.
The performance of the BMC and the state of the beef industry was deliberated upon at great length earlier this week where the Acting Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Beauty Manake, shared her serious concerns.
Speaking in a televised broadcast, Minister Manake said the cattle population in Botswana has drastically reduced from 2.91 million in the 1980s to 1.36 million in 2017. She raised lack of infrastructure, including lack of access roads to production areas, as other challenges of the BMC. Asked if Batswana disregarded cattle farming after diamonds were discovered, she responded: “I don’t think Batswana have forgotten about beef farming. Batswana produce under very difficult circumstances.”
The minister said the BMC did not make a profit for the past 10 years but farmers strove to produce against odds. “Botswana is trying to feed Africa but it’s not enough,” she continued. She referred to the government’s beef cluster strategy of 2008 which was meant to transform the beef industry but is now trapped in the penury of COVID-19 that makes implementation difficult.
For his part, the Chairman of the BMC, Boyce Mohutsiwa iterated the loss making history of the beef parastatal. According to Mohutsiwa, the BMC made P1 million in 2010 and recorded “a very impressive profit” in 2016 when more than 149 000 cattle were slaughtered.
Other than that, he added, “farmers did not benefit, which shows we did not do well”. He noted that the closure of the Francistown abattoir was due to its costliness. To turn fortunes of the BMC around, a strategy that entails tapping into processing of hides and skins to maximise profits from the beef production value chain has been devised, Mohutsiwa said.
Regarding whether the EU market is the only one for Botswana’s beef exports, he said more markets are being explored. “We are looking at the niche market,’’ he added.
The BMC is one of several parastatals that are currently operating without substantive CEOs. Mohutsiwa said several candidates have been assessed and their names handed over to the government to make a selection and an appointment. Meanwhile, attempts by The Business Weekly & Review to examine the BMC’s financial performance in the last financial year proved difficult because the parastatal did not even submit audited results to the Auditor General for scrutiny for her latest report.
“As part of my writing of this report, and in line with the long-standing arrangement with the Public Accounts Committee, I had circularised all statutory bodies and state-owned enterprises requesting them to forward to me their audited financial statements and reports for the purposes of review and inclusion of the review results in this report,” the Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, notes in the report.
“The Botswana Meat Commission did not submit the audited financial statements for the year under review, nor give any explanation for their inability to do so.” Minister Manake has told the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises that an Irish consultancy named Irish Development International had concluded in early 2020 that the sinking parastatal would need P500 million to revive its fortunes.
MPs on the statutory committee had noted that BMC 2019 audited financials showed that the parastatal made a loss of P106 million and a cumulative loss P1.7 billion. Responding to this, Manake said “the problem we are facing is bad management practices at BMC”. She added that the BMC had a lot of legacy issues that date back 10 years.