MAUN: The Botswana Meat Commision (BMC) has embarked on a P10 million project to automate the Maun abattoir, in a bid to boost the plant’s capacity by over 30 percent.
Maun plant manager, Mothobi Mothobi said the abattoir would be closed for a period of a month from mid-July to mid-August. He said the maintenance and uprade work would also solve farmers’ concerns that the abattoir does not buy enough cattle from farmers since the automation would increase the plant capacity by 33 percent from slaughtering 90 to 120 animals a day.
Mothobi also said they are going to put up automated rail in both the de-boning and killing floors from the current manual system where carcasses are pulled and pushed by hands. The works will also involve increasing freezing capacity of the abattoir to boost cattle sales outside Ngamiland.
“There are also going to be liarages expansion to increase chiller and freezer capacity to accommodate for the increase in the number of cattle slaughtered per day,” he said.
The plant manager defended the timing of the abattoir’s shut down insisting that it would not affect the on going de-stocking process. Mmegi Business had wanted to know if the timing of the closure is not suitable considering the need for increased cattle sales and off-take in Ngamiland due to an anticipated drought.
The number of cattle in Ngamiland is currently estimated at more than 500,000 while the carrying capacity of the district is just 250,000.
The increase is attributed to lack of a consistent cattle off-take due to the continuous outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which has been ravaging cattle in the district since 2007.
The Maun abattoir which was established in 1989, was once closed indefinitely in 1996 after the outbreak of cattle lung disease, which led to the culling of the entire 320,000 cattle population at the time.
Following the re-stocking, livestock have recovered beyond the pre-cull numbers and the abattoir was therefore subsequently reopened.
Despite the reopening, cattle herds in the district have continued to soar and this has already been identified as posing a serious problem of degradation to districts pasturelands.
In the wake of poor rainfalls in the last rainfall season, there has been fear of a serious drought this year. As a result of the anticipated drought, goverment has called on farmers to de-stock.
Ngamiland Integrated Farmers Association chairman, Simon Bojosi, complained in an interview that the timing of the project comes at a wrong time. He said the maintenance should have been around April or February before the drought situation worsened.
“We have already began to get reports of cattle dying from our members’’, said Bojosi. He further revealed that cattle numbers in the district are rising beyond control because of lack of off-take.
However, BMC management said the temporary closure would not have much impact on the cattle off-take. Mothobi said they normally have a shutdown annually to allow for repairs during the Christmas period, however, due to customer demands they had opted not to go for a shutdown in 2014 and instead merged it with this year’s 2015 project to carry out a major plant upgrade. “If we proceed with the killing 90 cattle per day, we will be slaughtering fewer numbers than when we do after upgrading to 120 animals per day,” he noted. Mothobi added that with 120 cattle slaughtered per day, they would cover up for the lost days in the last quarter during the closure.
“There is no other better time for shut down which is why we killed continuously last year without a break so we can take more cattle to accommodate for a shut down this year,” he said.