- abattoir is not economically viable
- rejects 1050 cattle supply per week promised by the farmers
- Farmers to seek meeting with President
FRANCISTOWN: The Minister of Agriculture Food and Security Patrick Ralotsia has rejected overtures made by cattle farmers to save the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir.
In an effort to save the abattoir from a permanent shut down farmers from the catchment area pledged meet the Ministers request to supply 1050 cattle per week. The undertaking comes in the wake of a call by Ralotsia to the farmers to intercede to save the BMC operation, which has suffered from low throughput. Despite the farmers’ answering the Minister’s call with pledges and commitments in writing, the Minister has done a volte-face and insisting that the plant is not economically viable.
Announcing the decision to permanently close the abattoir, the Minister revealed that it has failed to reach the annual target of 82 000 cattle. “Francistown abattoir has never reached its capacity, and this alone makes it to rely on Lobatse one to run its operations. There are instances where on some days it kills nothing because farmers are failing to bring the required number of cattle. If you can commit yourself in bringing the required number of cattle you can safe the abattoir from closing,” urged the Minister.
Cattle farmers in response to government’s concerns, met and committed themselves to supply 1050 cattle per week as opposed to the required 800.
In the letter written to the Minister last month through Francistown Mayor Sylvia Muzila the Farmers made the commitment to supply the abattoir with 1050 cattle per week, “I write this savingram to submit the information gathered from the feedlots owners and farmers in the Francistown catchment area, this is a result of a resolution made by the special full council and also your advice in this regard. The feedlot owners and farmers commit and pledge to supply 1050 cattle per week which has a surplus of 250 of the required capacity. Also, it should be noted that individual farmers have the capacity to supply the abattoir with 3000 cattle per week,” reads part of the letter addressed to the Minister.
In response Ralotsia rejected the undertaking, stating that the farmers, over time have failed to meet the requirement of supplying 800 per week. “I wish to draw your attention that the Francistown plant has not been operating efficiently due to low throughput. The abattoir has the capacity to slaughter 82000 cattle per annum but only managed to slaughter 4024 cattle per annum from 2006 to 2013. The number of cattle slaughtered ranged from 10 000 to 57211, this is clear that it is not economical to operate the plant.”
While the Minister could not be reached for comment Mosekaphofu Farmers Association Chairperson Siyani Machuka expressed shock at Ralotsia’s response wondering why he initially asked for interventions from the farmers. “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. Curiously when we tried to save the abattoir the Minister is now rejecting our efforts. The Minister is adamant that the plant will never open,” Machuka revealed in an interview.
Machuka indicated that they are still hopeful that they will soon meet President Mokgweetsi Masisi, “We are still awaiting response from the Office of the President about the meeting we proposed. We will then send a delegation made up of the farmers and Francistown councilors to discuss this issue,” noted the Farmers Association Chairperson.