The cogwheels have started moving hardly a week after government made a commitment to liberalise Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).However, the big elephant in the room is to achieve expectations of both farmers and other stakeholders yearning for the end of BMC monopoly. Jimmy Opelo, the permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture and food security remains optimistic and sees a silver lining on the initiative. “We have been waiting for this moment longer than you can imagine,” said Opelo
breaking news that government has appointed a consultant to steer the project through the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA). Minchin & Kelly is being paid P8.7 million to guide the Commission’s privatisation that is expected to end the beef export monopoly. Opelo said accommodative steps will be taken in the privitisation of BMC, ensuring that all options are looked into, although skepticism linger on that government may not make the decision that the farming community prefers. PEEPA Chief Executive Officer Obakeng Moumakwa said Minchin & Kelly will develop a strategy and transaction plan in the next three months to guide the parastatal’s privatisation. “Their responsibilities will include carrying out a business, financial and human resource assessment of BMC, valuation of BMC and submitting a comprehensive project completion report at the end of the project,” said Moumakwa highlighting that the project is expected to be completed by end of August.
Moumakwa said BMC privatisation process has been a long but very informative process that involves consultations with all key stakeholders, particularly farmers, since privatisation of BMC impacts on their livelihoods. “Their concerns and suggestions were duly noted and taken onboard because it is government’s commitment to ensuring that privatisation is fair, transparent and in the best interests of Batswana,” said Moumakwa. But Gantsi North legislator Noah Salakae argues that the money being paid Minchin & Kelly should at least have been used to cut the debt that government owes to farmers. “That is, if the government is committed to addressing the plight of the farmers, chief of which is breach of contracts/agreements the government gets into with farmers,” said Salakae adding that a responsible and caring government listens to the people and executes what people want.
BMC spokesperson Brian Dioka told this publication that BMC has paid in excess of P150 million to farmers since January and owe an outstanding P60.5 million as of today. He said that the figure keeps fluctuating as farmers keep bringing cattle to BMC and the Commission has set itself a target of 30 days to make payments for any consignment delivered to BMC. “Currently the daily throughput has increased ahead of the looming drought and winter season,” he said, adding that Lobatse is operating at maximum 650 cattle a day. Salakae said the consultancy for BMC privatisation is clearly a delaying tactic, as farmers know what they want and have told the government many times at different fora. “They are saying public interest is paramount. People want de-monopolisation of the BMC Act, privatisation and other self-serving government pursuits must occupy secondary place. “Why is the government commissioning so many consultancies when there is no confusion as to what the farmers and general populace want and how it should be implemented,” queried Salakae.
He said government should be honest enough to share her fears with respect to implementing the farmers’ wishes. Leaked snippets from the KPMG Feasibility study on the liberalisation of the Botswana beef export market indicates that regulated liberalisation of the beef export market is the most feasible mechanism to drive reform in the beef export sector and improve the productivity of both the cattle industry and beef export sectors at a national level. The report says the first driver is to ensure that the sector develops and is able to remain economically sustainable without undue commercial involvement of government. In addition it is to ensure that players in the market, including cattle producers, receive competitive prices for their products, reflective of their contribution or value-add in the industry.
Meanwhile another consultant Deloitte has been appointed as a transaction advisor to assist with separating the Maun Abattoir from BMC Lobatse and Francistown. Deloitte will be paid P4, 2 million for the task, which involves finding a concessionaire to operate the Maun Abattoir, establishing a new limited liability company to house BMC Maun, providing technical advice during negotiations and finalising and signing of concession agreement with the preferred concessionaire.
As Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) management continue to grapple with efforts to bring the parastatal to profitability, employees from the company’s Francistown plant currently under care and maintenance, remain a headache.
Though a hundred of the employees have been absorbed at the Maun and Lobatse plant, BMC is yet to find opportunities for 115 employees, whose future hangs in the balance following the restructuring. “We have since decided to find more opportunities for these 115 that have remained, whether under BMC or somewhere else,” said Brian Dioka, BMC spokesperson. “However achieving zero job losses is unheard off and impossible, though we were not too eager to pull the trigger.” He said management is sitting around the table with the shareholders to find solution for the employees by end of February 2019, as the company faces a cost exposure of eight million pula per annum from the idle 115 workers and care and maintenance cost.
“It’s a big relief on BMC’s balance sheet,” said Dioka highlighting that the meat company has been reeling on the red over the past years. He said the BMC management needs to be imaginative and is embarking on extreme cost cutting measures, as it also accommodates the increased wage bills for Lobatse and Maun following the absorption of the 100 employees from Francistown abattoir. Austerity measures implementation has seen BMC move away from feedlot business that was draining the parastatal 100 million pula per three- month circle. “It is an opportunity for us to offset some operational cost,” said Dioka, reiterating that the proposed restructuring is meant to find areas of improvement within the company.
“We have to be a low-cost producer,” asserted Dioka, adding that BMC can unlock more value once it seriously and deliberately reduces its cost. Dioka said BMC and the workers’ union were always in sync on the proposed restructuring, dismissing any loggerheads. “It was never an issue; it’s just on the modality that we were discussing. Restructuring was an approved decision before we met the shareholder,” said Dioka. Dioka said the management and stakeholders have agreed to keep eleven employees at the Francistown abattoir to ensure the assets are safely kept from being dilapidated by either natural or unnatural forces.
Meanwhile, government has already written off loans of 400 million plus for BMC, as part of efforts to improve the company’s financial position and Dioka is optimistic the development will help the restructuring process.“We are now in a better position to engage any partner. BMC is now in a desired business state. Without shareholder intervention, this restructuring could not have been possible,” said Dioka. Apart from writing off loans, government also gave BMC 124 million for operations while 30 million pula was used mainly for the Francistown restructuring exercise.
BancABC Botswana, the unlisted bank this week announced that it has partnered with Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) under an arrangement which is aimed at providing a convenient payment solution for farmers who sell cattle to BMC in the Northern region, more specifically the Francistown Abattoir.
According to a press statement from the bank which is part of ABC group, the BancABC Prepaid Cash Card is a versatile banking solution that enables the user access to their finances with ease anywhere and at any given time. “The BancABC Prepaid Cash Card will give farmers access to a broader range of banking services through the Bank’s in-branch and self-service channels,” said the bank which delisted on the BSE some few years ago.
Card users are not required to have an existing bank account and moreover, the card enables customers to swipe for free, enjoy zero card maintenance fees and shop online. BancABC and BMC embarked on a Northern road show to educate farmers on the new payment platform from the 15th through to the 18th August 2017.
Speaking on this partnership, BancABC new broom, Managing Director Kgotso Bannalotlhe shared, “As a bank, we are focused on contributing positively to the communities in which we operate.
The partnership with BMC allows us to do so. By providing BMC Francistown Abattoir with a payment solution the bank has been able to contribute to the improvement of payment channels and thus strengthen the long standing relationship between BMC and its cattle suppliers.”
BancABC’s Head of Corporate, Mr. Bernard Mzizi further reiterated, “Our aim is to be a premier financial institution and this involves becoming the partner of choice for customers. Our partnership with BMC reflects the Bank’s commitment to providing innovative banking solutions for our customers.”
Kweneng Agricultural Show (KAS) organisers have positioned themselves and are ready to host a profitable show in Molepolole this year.
The current committee has realised that the tribe’s failure is uneconomic and is denying the region to showcase its farming products as well as attracting both young and old farmers to go into productive and profitable farming. Their vision is to make the revamped show very attractive and worthwhile as Molepolole is not only the economic hub of the Kweneng region, but the gateway to the desert.
Previous KAS hosted in Molepolole used to be an attractive one stop service business and entertainment centre as patrons were treated to many activities not only limited to agricultural produce, but equally watched events such as horse racing and a football match at the same ground.
However, that seem to have gone with the tribe’s decision in the early 1990s to pave way for national development to give the showground to government to build the present Sports Complex. This decision was embraced by all, but somehow the tribe relaxed and this led to the last show being held in 1995.
However, a few tribesmen put their act together and revived the agricultural show in 2013 to present, but it was not attractive to both farmers and other stakeholders.
This happened despite that Kweneng District itself has the highest population of livestock named the I11 area that feeds Botswana Meat Commission with the highest number of animals slaughtered for the EU market.
However, the situation appeared to be improving when a new show ground situated in Garanta ward behind the Magistrate Courts and the Sub-Land Board was opened in 1999 after the tribe built the brick wall surrounding the ground through the Ipelegeng Projects. But still that did not improve the quality of the products exhibited.
Realising that their agricultural show is no longer appealing, Bakwena approached the Sechele 1 Trust (S1T) Trustees and requested for help on how best to improve the current situation and other developments in the Kweneng Region. In response, S1T Board led by Chairman Charles Keikotlhae unanimously agreed to second banker and member of the Trust, Samuel Sebele to work with the current Agriculture show committee.
Speaking to BG News, Sebele said after his secondment to work with the current KAS Committee under the Chairmanship of Samuel Mapitse, “We started by mapping the way forward, key amongst our decisions was that we should benchmark. Our first trip was visiting the Serowe Agriculture Show Committee. We chose Serowe because they have been doing well and their exhibits are appealing.”
The delegation was made up of Mapitse, Masego Phuduhudu, Modiri Manthe and Sebele. “We met with the well experienced commercial farmer, Keletso Rakhudu who graciously shared with us on how best we could go about it in order to improve our show”.
Rakhudu took them through a 30-minutes lesson on what to do and not do when organising the Show. “He taught us that when organising a show, we must know that it is a market place for many things, the choosing of guest Speaker and judges matter most.” Further the exhibits must be of high quality, the show must be turned into an economic event and ensure it is apolitical as it is an event for all.
“We have a strong sub-committee and must know and or establish our target market for the show. Having fully understood what is needed, our first start was making a logo which helps in marketing the show because Kweneng Agriculture Show has been inactive for a long time. The colours and features of the logo are Brown representing the earth or the ground which we plough in, Green for food we plough for both livestock and human, Lime which is the bright side of the future, with the half wheel in dark green representing Innovation industry and the journey we are taking.”
They have invited Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to be the guest speaker on the 29th July 2017 but are still waiting for a response from his office. “We expect to host more than 1,000 farmers from the Kweneng region, agricultural experts and suppliers from the rest of the country as well as neighbouring countries”, said Sebele. The theme for the agriculture show which is expected to bring about change is “Practises Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effects of Climate Change”. Sebele said they are doing all in their power to ensure that the show attracts international agricultural professionals, academics and members from peripheral and complementing disciplines in the area and regionally.
Sebele expects a great turnout from the regional farmers due to the anticipated bumper harvest and good rains which have greatly improved the veldt. “We expect crops like Maize, Sorghum, Beans, marotse, and vegetables; we also expect livestock and small stock. However, the Committee is facing serious financial challenges and we are hopeful that after this year’s show we will get a sponsor. We are also appealing to relevant stakeholders to come forth and go into partnership with us.”