Controversy surrounds a multimillion Pula deal between Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and a Zimbabwean meat processing company over the sale of live cattle to Zimbabwe. BMC has denied media reports in Zimbabwe that it has clinched a fresh cattle supply deal with Cold Storage Company (CSC)-a Zimbabwean meat processing company. The deal is said to have been signed last month.
Sources also say some CSC officials have cast doubts on the deal saying it hangs in the balance. The deal which according to reports was signed in December last year replaces an older one signed in 2011 but according to the same reports in Zimbabwe some CSC officials are having second thoughts whether the deal will materialise following the drought that swept across Ngamiland last year leaving scores of cattle dead. Many Ngamiland farmers especially those along Lake Ngami are currently counting their losses after last year’s drought.
Now reports in the neighbouring country indicate that the deal is bound to collapse due to “operational issues”. “Management is well aware of dwindling cattle in Botswana and how that would be sustained for two years is a mystery,” a CSC official who declined to be named was quoted as saying, adding that, “We don’t expect the arrangement to last the mile.” He was quoted in the Zimbabwean’s News Day online newspaper. The article also came out on the newspaper print copy.
However, BMC’s Corporate Communications and Public relations Manager Tiro Kganela has denied that any new deal has been signed. In an interview he said, “Botswana Meat Commission did not sign any new contract with Cold Storage Commission (CSC) in 2012. Rather, we have been constantly engaged in negotiations with varied customers in the SADC region for live cattle trade, and those included CSC.” But not according to CSC’s chief executive officer Ngoni Chinogaramombe who was quoted in The Herald (Zimbabwe) that, ““It is a two-year contract and it will certainly boost our slaughtering capacity at Bulawayo abattoir.”
The deal according to the reports was signed end of December and will run until 2014. However, Kganela says BMC is negotiating with CSC to resume live export trade in 2013. “An important part of these negotiations include how the trade transactions will be best undertaken to ensure long-term sustainability.” Besides according to BMC live cattle trade with Zimbabwe CSC will not be only restricted to cattle from Ngamiland but would include Zone 7 cattle. A previous deal between the two parties collapsed when CSC failed to pay BMC.
Towards the end of last year CSC owed BMC over P2 million but according to Kganela CSC’s indebtedness has now been dealt with, but for one outstanding installment. He did not provide more details on the “one outstanding installment”. Reached for comment this week Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff admitted that the drought has done much damage in the Ngamiland area.
He said the area is overpopulated with cattle hence the drought. Ngamiland stocking rate is 300 000 herds but the region now hosts over 400 000 cattle thanks to a persistent foot and mouth outbreak. The region’s farmers have nowhere to sell their cattle and with an extra over 100 000 cattle it is overgrazed. “That is why we are busy trying to find alternative markets. That area’s overpopulated,” said De Graaff.
Asked if government has plans in place to help those affected by the drought he said, “we always try to help those affected.” He said end of last year he sent a team to Ngamiland to assess the extent of the damage. “We are waiting for their report,” said the minister.