The latest Statistics Botswana report on agriculture has attributed the decline in the country’s cattle population to stock theft and straying.The Annual Agricultural Survey Report 2017 indicates that cattle losses increased significantly from 48, 571 in 2015 to 79, 799 in 2017.
This comes amid government plans of Cluster Development Initiative (CDI) that has identified beef industry as one of the three clusters government intends to develop to achieve economic diversification.Presenting the 2019/2020 national budget speech Minister Kenneth Matambo said preparatory work is underway to develop three clusters – tourism, beef and finance integrated with knowledge intensive business services, studies have already been commissioned on the sectors.
“These detailed studies will include the assessment of capacity building needs for the identified sectors as part of measures to enhance their domestic and global competitiveness,” said Matambo.On the other hand Lobatse has been identified under the Special Economic Zone for beef and leather production hub among the eight zones government intends to promote.However, as cattle population dropped from 1.4 million in 2015 to 1.1 million in 2017, the birth rate also decreased from 57.9 percent to 47.3 percent while mortality rate declined from 7.1 percent to 5.9 percent and off-take rate also declined from 6.6 percent to 5.5 percent.
Although authorities have attributed the drop to stock theft and straying, Gantsi North legislator Noah Salakae says the meat industry value chain has become weak due to export monopoly created by government through the archaic Botswana Meat Commission Act (BMC) of 1965.
Salakae said the monopoly disadvantages the local farmers through low prices that are below international benchmark.“Low prices drain the national herd because Batswana sell more to meet their needs,’ said Salakae, dismissing government suggestions that liberalising the meat industry will further deplete the national herd.
He said most families have abandoned cattle rearing due to low prices.Meanwhile the goat population increased from 1.1 million in 2015 to 1.2 million in 2017, despite the birth rate of goats dropping from 43.6 percent to 39.1 percent and increase in mortality rate also from 16.7 percent to 23.3 percent while off-take rate improved from 7.1 to 7.3 percent. The sheep population also increased from 214, 234 to 234, 621 during the same period.