FRANCISTOWN: Some communal cattle farmers in the northern part of the country have resolved that they should approach Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia.
The farmers are in a bid to lobby government to re-open the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir.
The resolution was taken during a meeting held by the farmers at Francistown Senior Secondary School’s recreational hall over the weekend. In total, 64 farmers attended the meeting.
A delegation made up of four people has been appointed to meet the minister. Patrick Mazwiduma, one of the farmers, leads it. A representative from Business Botswana will also be part of the delegation that will meet minister Ralotsia.
The delegation is expected to approach the minister some time this week. The BMC Francistown abattoir closed its doors late last year and since then, farmers have bemoaned that they have been struggling to make ends meet. Currently, the BMC Lobatse and Maun abattoirs remain operational.
Farmers in the north are eligible to sell their cattle in Lobatse but they have said that they are unable to do so because it involves a bureaucratic process along with high transport costs. A majority of the farmers said that they solely depended on selling their cattle to BMC for survival. The concerned farmers said that they have now learned that the abattoir will remain closed while BMC’s privatisation model is being finalised.
BMC ceased its Francistown operations citing that it was struggling to attain operational efficiency owing to the low level of cattle supply from the farmers. Government recently took a decision to privatise the company. The privatisation is expected to be in full swing in the next three years. In addition, since 2006 the BMC Francistown abattoir has not met its annual target of slaughtering 85,000 cattle. The abattoir has been
“Instead of totally closing in Francistown I think BMC should revise the number of cattle it slaughters and go for a lesser figure than it previously did,” one farmer, Tenson Ramaotwana said. He added, “The Francistown abattoir should also keep low staff to tally with the revised figure of cattle it slaughters. This can help the abattoir attain operational efficiency while the government works on finalising a privitisation model”.
Former Francistown councillor, Tabengwa Tabengwa who is also a farmer added that BMC should re-open and consider offering farmers better prices in order to encourage them to supply more cattle.
“Issues such as late and low payment to farmers are some of the key factors that led to many of them not supplying BMC with cattle.
Once such issues have been addressed I believe that more farmers will be more than willing to supply BMC with cattle,” he said, adding that they as farmers have for years complained of low prices offered by BMC.
Mazwiduma noted that the closure of the abattoir came at a wrong time as the Francistown economy is still trying to recover from the effects of the closure of Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC).
“Only established commercial farmers are able to sell their cattle to the Lobatse abattoir. Small and medium scale farmers cannot do so.
What is worse is that we (small and medium scale farmers) entirely depend on selling our cattle for survival. We are really struggling,” said Mazwiduma.
Almost all the farmers who attended the meeting shared the same sentiments as Tabengwa and Ramaotwana, as well as Mazwiduma.