There has been no significant jump in the tonnage of beef exports to the EU market, despite the lifting of an export ban to the lucrative economic bloc.
The latest figures by the Bank of Botswana (BoB) show that Beef exports from Botswana were US$11.7 million (P107.9 million) as of November last year. This is a slight increase compared to US$9.4 million (P81.5 million) recorded in December 2013.
Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) attributed this to structural issues in the beef value chain that need to be dealt with to improve the performance of the beef industry.
According to BMC Chief Executive Officer, Akolang Tombale, the best market for the country’s beef is still the European market, which used to consume 70 percent of Botswana’s beef exports.
“There are a number of issues that need to be done to allow us to access this market in full. For example, in 2013 we only sent to Europe about 6,000 tonnes of meat products whereas in 2014, we have improved slightly to about 10,000 tonnes,” he said.
In an interview with Mmegi Business, Tombale indicated that the challenges faced by the local beef sector include cattle traceability, (Livestock Identification and Trace-back System (LITS) – BOLUS), that renders most of Botswana cattle ineligible for the European market. Tombale further said measles in Botswana was very high, rendering that ten to 13 percent of cattle brought to the abattoir were ineligible for the European market.
“We need to improve farming practices especially for the communal farmers. In addition to the same, issues of compliance are critical which include residues from both feed and medicines, high cost of inputs, and low cattle prices among others,” he stated.
According to the CEO, the BMC has already done a lot to improve its operational efficiency and to reform some of its cost structures such as management of feedlots. The meat commission has also restructured cattle procurement to allow itself to purchase cattle from farms and areas where cattle are concentrated. “We however, still have to modernise the operation of the plant, especially Lobatse. We have also reformed our marketing,” said Tombale. He pointed out that issues that haunt cattle farmers were basically related to record keeping, productivity of cattle to improve the off-take and to emphasise the issue of measles. He said BMC has introduced extension workers in the form of district officers that will work with farmers to assist with production queries and market information.
Tombale lauded the Value Chain Analysis and Development (VCAD), noting that it was a step in the right direction. He however said there were fundamental issues that should have been done. “For example the study needed to have acknowledged the performance of BMC in 2013 and 2014. If this was done it would have been seen that there is a difference in price realisation between BMC and the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) in those years. Furthermore a further analysis need to have been done to demonstrate,” he said.
He added that the opportunities offered by the beef VCAD included assistance with branding and market intelligence for BMC. It also offers strengthening of farmers’ organisations and assist communal farmers produce better. Tombale noted that the beef sector must be clustered and not fragmented.