As much as he has received payments from the BMC, Masire insists that he has not been looting the ailing meat commission. He explains in a candid interview that as a farmer, he was paid for the services rendered through his facility. He is adamant that BMC records can attest to that. Masire was responding to recent reports that a sizeable number of farmers, Masire and former Speaker, Patrick Balopi received millions of Pula from BMC at a time when the abattoir was reeling from loss of business from the lucrative European Union beef market.
Legislator for Shoshong, Philip Makgalemele, had asked the Assistant Minister of Agriculture the amount paid by the BMC to the feedlotters during the delisting period and how the feedlotters were identified by the BMC and whether an open tender was ever issued. In his response, Oreeditse Molebatsi told parliament that a total of P69 million was paid for 35, 423 cattle that were in feedlots. In 2011 the EU suspended import of Botswana beef citing poor hygiene and improper operation at the abattoir.
Molebatsi said the cost of the feed for these animals paid was P135, 000, 934. According to Molebatsi, Masire’s feedlot under his company GM Five is said to have received the feedcost of P1,467, 801 and advance recovery cost of P838, 500 which accrued an interest of P15, 641 and payments made were P613, 660, while Patick Balapi’s Wall Green is said to have received a feedcost of P2, 420, 236 advance recovery of P1. 802,700, an interest of P24,843 and payments of P592, 693.
Asked why he should not be painted with the same brush as those accused of benefiting from BMC, Masire complained that he operated the feedlot at a loss during the time when BMC cattle were in his feedlot. He said for a number of years in the recent past the BMC has been running at a loss.
“Now everybody coming from there with some money is viewed with suspicion. Honourable Balopi and I have not escaped the suspicion that we were carrying part of the loot, whereas what the BMC paid us was a refund on what we spent on feeding their cattle plus the P3.70 per head per day for the duration of the time their cattle spent in our facilities”.
Masire explained that BMC rents feedlot facilities for P3.70 per head. Out of this amount the feed-lotter pays for induction of the animal – meaning that he had to give each animal a range of vaccines including bobishield, one short, botulism, anthrax , noromectin and lacticon to improve the digestive system to adjust to new feeding regime. He further said, the BMC then advances the feed-lotter with P1300 per animal to feed for around 90 days at a cost that exceeds P2000 per head.
He said the P1300, which is also charged an interest rate of 11 percent is payable only when animals are slaughtered. This means the feedlotter has to raise more than P700 per head to add to the P1300 advanced by BMC. In Masire’s view, there are no short cuts in the process. The BMC does not only stipulate the ingredients of the feed but also reserves itself the right to take samples to the lab for analysis.
Setting the record
Feedlotting is beneficiation of weaners to turn them into finished exportable commodity. “I have for years strived to get into feed-lotting for BMC to add to feed-lotting my own animals, but the BMC authorities stood against me for whatever reason. However, in September last year BMC over-bought and had 1030 head of cattle to dump on me. I had the facilities to take care of them,” said the farmer. This allowed Masire to raise over P700,000 to bring 1000 cattle to their marketable condition. “At the end we were refunded what we spent on feeding the cattle.”
Views on weaners and feedlots
Asked if weaner production and feedlotting is a profitable business, Masire explained that though the “margins are small” purchasing of weaners and feedlotting them is one of the most welcome developments in the beef industry in recent years.
But, if indeed feedlotting is not so profitable why would the former president remain in the business? Without hesitation, he responds as any reputable businessman would: It is primarily for three reasons. “I have developed facilities for feedlotting my own weaners for three months in the year. The facilities remain unused for nine months of the year. Secondly, because it is a sector in which Batswana need to be involved too. Thirdly and more importantly because I consider it to be of such enormous value to the cattle industry, especially to small farmers.”