- The minister says the plant failed to make economic contributions
- The plant has been running at a loss over the years-Ralotsia
FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir has failed to positively contribute to the economy of Francistown and the country at large due to its failure to meet its throughput of 380 cattle per day.
The inability to secure the required throughput has prompted BMC to close the abattoir despite the increasing backlash from farmers in the northern region. Despite the public outcry over the closure the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia says it was motivated by necessity and there are no immediate plans to re-open it, as it was costing government P35 million per annum in public funds.
“Over the years the Francistown plant has failed to make any significant contribution to the economy but instead it has been draining the government P35 million per annum. Above this there were also expenses of salaries of 195 employees. All these years the plant has been operational, and it was running at a loss. Therefore, it has to be noted that the decision to shut down the Francistown BMC was not done in bad faith because it was practically impossible to operate it. The decision was not to punish anyone but to save the public funds from going down the drain consistently,” Ralotsia told The Botswana Gazette in an exclusive interview.
Ralotsia noted that though the plant has been closed it is important that it is eventually brought back to life to contribute to the economy of Francistown and the country at large. “The government cannot build a multi-million facility and just leave it to cease operations permanently. We are currently trying to engage with farmers and different stakeholders on how the plant can be brought back to life and contribute to the economy. We no longer want to experience what has been happening with daily targets of cattle stock. Mind you the throughput of the plant is 380 per day but there were instances when it will go for two months without slaughtering due to failure by farmers to bring cattle,” Ralotsia emphasized.
Regional farmers accuse the Minister of rejecting their commitment of supplying 1050 cattle weekly in order to avoid the closure of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir, but Ralotsia said the pledges were never going to arrest the situation. Following the closure of the plant recently the farmers met and came up with a counter measure to salvage the plant. In their proposal to the Minister, feedlot owners and farmers committed themselves to supply 1050 cattle per week, which they said is a surplus of 250 of the required capacity. In addition, the proposal indicated that individuals have a capacity of supplying 3000 cattle per week an indication that the farmers’ pledges will enable the plant to reach its throughput and restart operations without financial challenges. “When the Minister announced the decision to close the abattoir he promised us that if we can commit to supply the required throughput the closure will be avoided. Now curiously he is adamant that the abattoir will not open,” Mosekaphofu Farmers Association Chairperson Siyani Machuka revealed in an interview recently with The Botswana Gazette.
The Minister has refuted the farmers proposals and pointed out that they are not practical. “It has to be noted that it is not the first time the farmers make the pledges to help the plant. In the past years when the plant was struggling to meet the daily throughput they made some pledges which they never fulfilled. Even today they will make the pledges and when the time to supply the cattle arrives they will not bring them,” Ralotsia argued while noting that government is still trying to engage the farmers to find out how best to resuscitate the abattoir.