The reluctance by local cattle farmers to sign the Livestock Purchase Agreement (LPA) has adverse impact on Botswana Meat Commission’s business with the European Union market.
BMC Chief Executive Dr Akolang Tombale says farmers continue to frustrate the LPA- an assurance that BMC has vowed to give the EU promising to supply them with meat products that meet their (EU) requirements. The LPA is an agreement between BMC and farmers supplying it that should any fault be found in the sold cattle, the farmer will bear the costs incurred. It seeks to protect the nation and save government a lot of costs incurred in unfit livestock supplied to BMC.
The agreement follows the embarrassment the meat commission suffered when 300 tonnes of meat products worth P22million destined to the EU were recalled back to Botswana last year after it was discovered that it contained traces of an antibiotic that had been banned in the EU market. He said BMC has started to slaughter for EU but is finding it hard to assure the market that the causes of the recalling of the meat products last year will not happen again.
When ‘unclean’ meat was recalled in September last year, it was also discovered that similar products with the unwanted antibiotic had entered the EU market in July something Tombale said made the EU skeptical about products from Botswana. Tombale said had it not been for the LPA, the EU would not consider importing meat products from Botswana. “The LPA literally saved us embarrassment from the EU but we have a challenge as farmers here refuse to sign it.” He told this publication that farmers who refuse to sign the agreement have cited lack of proper consultation and short notice from the BMC.
Very true, says chairperson of Gantsi Beef Farmers Association, Alwyn van de Heever. “We have not been consulted on the LPA, rather we were only informed in February just as our members were about to send their cattle to BMC that there is a new form called LPA that we have to sign,” he said adding that they have through the Botswana National Beef Producers Union, complained in writing to the BMC. “The LPA is not in the producers’ interest but that of the BMC.
The information also reached us in short notice and BMC never explained the LPA,” he said. It is not only the wealthy cattle barons complaining. Acting chairperson of the Kweneng West Beef Farmers Association Mokganedi Molefhe, said the BMC has not yet consulted them on the LPA. “We have only heard about it in the media and farmers from Gantsi region so we can not comment about it as we do not know its contents yet.” Phagane Tladi of the Kgatleng Livestock Farmers Association also said they are still waiting for the BMC to approach them about the LPA. Dr Tombalwe conceded that, “We have a big task ahead of us to convince local farmers to sign the LPA and appreciate its importance because if EU shuns us, the farmers will lose very much.”
The BMC has been struggling with foot and mouth disease that saw Zones 6 and 7 delisted from trading with the meat commission. The Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan de Graaf has said that the Francistown abattoir will therefore be slaughtering for other markets other than the EU. There are currently over 2500 cattle in feedlots in Francistown that could be destined for EU but will now be sold to the Zimbabwean market. Another challenge at BMC is the mix up of the bolus programme.
According to Tombale for every 300 cows that come to BMC about 5% have more than one bolus, which is not acceptable. This year BMC has sold P130 million worth of meat products to various markets and Tombale hopes the commission will break even by the end of this year.