- To dismantle the BMC monopoly
In a last-ditch-effort to end the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) monopoly four beef producers’ associations have written to President Ian Khama calling for his intervention.
The associations all from the Gantsi region are Keledi Farmers’ Association, Okwa/Gwana Beef Producers’ Association and the Ovetore Farmers’ Association.
Calling Khama “the father of our nation and country” the farmers pour out their hearts in the letter. There is an urgent need to end the BMC monopoly and free the market, to create competition in the Botswana Beef Industry. The current single channel marketing has major limitations in today’s world of competitiveness and free trade, they argue. Efforts to amend the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Act to remove the commission’s cattle export monopoly suffered a setback last year after Parliament deferred a bill to that effect. Among sections targeted for amendment is section 21, which gives the minister powers to issue permits to any person who wishes to export cattle. Sub-section 1 says that, “No person shall export cattle or edible products from cattle from Botswana unless he posses a permit in writing to do so, issued by the Minister,” while the next part notes that the commission (BMC) may slaughter cattle on behalf of any person for the purposes of exporting from Botswana. For the Gantsi farmers this Bill is what the doctor ordered.
They wrote to Khama that: removing the monopoly will assist in the BMC becoming the competitive and viable commercial business that it should be. Those against the Bill have argued that small farmers will suffer but the President was told that in fact it will in fact help them saying “it is a misconception that the BMC monopoly protects the interests of the communal or unfenced farmers because they are in fact more prejudiced than the so-called commercial farmers when their market is limited to a monopoly.” “The so-called small farmers will welcome the opportunity to participate in a free and expanded market place. More abattoirs, processing plants and feedlots mean easier access for ALL producers to market cattle,” reads part of the letter. The letter delivered to the President recently during a Kgotla meeting in the area early this month further states that, transporting cattle for long distances to the existing BMC monopoly is not cost effective. “The cost per head can range between P350.00 and P600.00.
Export abattoirs nearer to producers would reduce the cost of transport,” they argue. Reached for comment Lewis Kanguaiko of the Ovetore Farmers’ Association said they are of the view that prices will increase, as the market gets competitive. “We don’t have a problem with BMC, they can come and open an abattoir in Gantsi but as farmers we need to have a choice of where to sell our cattle with price being the determining factor.” They also complained of shortage of staff, vehicles and equipment at the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), which they say, impacts negatively on the whole beef industry with the producer once again dangling at the end of the chain. The farmers plead with Khama to intervene. “Under the current, dire circumstances we have decided to come directly to you, the father of our nation and country, and plead for your personal intervention and assistance with this catastrophic state of affairs in the Beef Industry in Botswana,” reads the letter.