Botswana Meat Commission’s (BMC) envisaged plan to grow its share of the beef export market is not going at a rate that they had wished. The reasons are the bureaucratic protocols which govern the import and export of beef as they often take long to complete before a deal can be sealed. Such protocols which are in conformity with international laws depend and or differ from country to country.
For example, Botswana has been courting two of the world’s biggest and lucrative markets being China for sometimes and the protocol negotiations are still ongoing. The other is Nigeria which is still to indicate whether they are in or out. Recently when President Mokgweetsi Masisi visited China he expressed Botswana’s desire to export beef to China. But will be able to match the market given the state of the BMC abattoirs some of which have been closed?
Speaking to Botswana Guardian BMC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale stated that the China market is just too big even if we operate at full strength we can never meet their demand. But the good thing is that the Chinese market is also looking at the supply of offal. “Currently we have applied for export permits with them. We applied for them to access our plants so that they could inspect if our production system does satisfy them in terms of meeting the standards”.
BMC currently sells its products both locally and internationally with the ability to reach even more markets regionally and beyond. The company’s quality standards span across many international bodies and is considered among the best five in the world. Botswana beef is one of the most naturally grazed. BMC plant has capabilities of producing beyond beef; pork, mutton and game meat processing.
BMC currently produces 24000 tonnes of beef per annum with the European Union (EU) market - the single largest consumer since the company’s establishment – taking up 9000 tonnes. It is expected the number of tonnes produced per annum will increase as more cattle posts have been registered to sell cattle directly to BMC.
Tombale revealed that currently BMC is not looking at any market. The last they negotiated and are supplying but have not reached the level they want to get to are regional countries in Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola. Tombale said that amongst the challenges they face is that DRC pays for their order in advance.
“Lately Angola is experiencing cash problems, with Mozambique getting most of their products in South Africa and we are working on them to increase the order. We have been supplying DRC for the past two years and Angola for three years while Mozambique is on and off,” he said.
BMC will soon start to sell its beef to the Island of Seychelles. Not only will they sell frozen raw meat, but will also send corned beef for trial in the Island. All this is thanks to the recent visit by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to that country who included in his delegation executive management of the BMC led by Tombale.
The agreement signed between BMC and two leading Seychelles Companies will see BMC exporting at least 48 tonnes of raw beef to the island possibly from October (next month). The names of the two companies that BMC signed an agreement with are Seychelles Trading Company which is a quasi government organisation and Rosebelle Company which is privately owned.
Although both have agreed to trade with each other, BMC cannot start immediately, as they have to wait for the green light from Seychelles companies who still have to apply for import permits in accordance with the law of their republic.
BMC has also negotiated to sell small stock meat to Seychelles and successfully negotiated for local chicken farmers to start selling their range chicken to Seychelles as well.
According to Tombale he negotiated the deal after being approached by local chicken farmers amongst them Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete who requested that “we should try to find market for chicken farmers as we go around the world searching for beef market”.
Tombale revealed that for a start both range chickens and small stock will not be supplied in large quantities as they will be sold on trial basis.
Besides Southern Africa, BMC is still to make a breakthrough in other parts of the African continent. According to Tombale BMC has been trying to secure the Nigerian market for long but without success. “We have also inquired from Ghana when their president Dr John Dramani Mahama visited Botswana. He expressed interest but nothing concrete has come through.
We still remain hopeful that they will respond positively,” said Tombale The good news is that thus far Botswana beef remains safe from livestock diseases such as Foot and Mouth (FMD), Contagious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP) and Anthrax and as such the diseases have no impact on the country’s ability to export to foreign markets. CBPPP has been eradicated.
However, originally , the problematic disease was the FMD, but Botswana dealt with it through dividing the country into zones , as such only beef from the green area zones is accepted everywhere. Asked which measures have the Department of Veterinary Services or relevant authorities undertaken to get foreign markets to relax sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures that act as a barrier for our beef exports, Tombale said the major issue under discussion is commodity-based trading in Ngamiland.
“This means that you can export meat from other red zones as it is not every cow in that area that has FMD. The meat to be sold will not be having FMD as it would have been thoroughly checked before we can export but we will have to disclose by way of putting a stamp indicating that the meat comes from this area. The business of trade depends on individual countries to agree and our discussion was between Southern African countries,” he said.