The recently ended two-day Letsema was received with mixed reactions as farmers expressed different views on a solution to the country’s troubled beef industry.
One of the disgruntled cattle ranchers, Keitumetse Shaka, from Boteti district vehemently disagreed when organizers asked them the farmers to come up with recommendations on the direction the cattle industry. “You cannot expect us to prescribe a remedy to resuscitate the BMC, when we are in the dark as to what ailment it is suffering from. The gentleman from BMC did not give us a report, but displayed some zigzag graphs, but didn’t tell us as to what has gone wrong at BMC,”said the agitated Shaka.
In response to the concerns of the farmers, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Micus Chimbombi was at pains to explain the turn of events which led the BMC to its sickbed. “Because the operating model of the BMC has been centred around the EU market, when we were delisted from selling to the EU, BMC was caught without any alternative lucrative market to sell to. But burdened with a huge operating cost of P25 million per month,” explained Chimbombi.
According to a representative of the Botswana National Beet Producer Union Abel Walter Modimo, BMC made losses due because it had commissioned private cattle buyers. “The costs have escalated into P107 million in 2009, P88 million in 2010 and P206 million in 2011. This year it’s envisaged that the parastatal’s losses are at P77 million,” revealed Modimo.
The Dr Chimbombi elaborated more about the controversial scheme. “The meat commission started the feed-lot system without fully considering the cost implications this scheme would bring to BMC, and this resulted in these huge losses. As of now the commission has engaged a cost accountant to determine if the scheme has benefits for the BMC or not,” he said.