By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The slaughtering capacity of Meatco’s northern abattoirs is steadily rising as a result of efforts by Meatco’s Northern Communal Area Management to reduce losses. Meatco has embarked on a strategy to turn around the longstanding declining numbers of cattle for slaughter at the country’s main abattoirs. As a result, the beef utility’s attractive incentives have largely contributed to the positive turn of events in the Northern Communal Areas or NCA. According to the company’s latest press release, the Oshakati Plant had a throughput, or slaughtering capacity, of 4 071 cattle since the beginning of the slaughter year, and it slaughtered 3 304 cattle during the same period last year. Furthermore, an estimated 2 344 cattle will be slaughtered during July compared with only 1 709 cattle slaughtered last year. According to Meatco’s Manager of Corporate Communications Uschi Ramakhutla, due to much lower slaughtering capacity of cattle north of the Red Line, the company made losses of N$8 million during the last financial year. She noted however that this is an improvement on the previous years, where the losses were double as much. “There are too many cattle in the north, placing a heavy burden on grazing. Therefore we need to slaughter them because the current state of affairs does not make the situation economically and environmentally viable,” said Ramakhutla, adding that in the previous years losses had stood at N$14 million. However, the situation for the NCA abattoirs is changing for the better as slaughter figures have also been improved at the Katima Mulilo plant. During the first half of the slaughter year, the Katima plant slaughtered 5 257 cattle compared to 5 058 cattle for the same period last year. This plant expects to butcher 1 392 cattle during this month compared to the 1 002 that was slaughtered during the same month in 2005. This situation is a complete turnaround for the Katima abattoir, which was temporarily shut down due to the critical decrease in slaughter numbers from August to October two years ago. Furthermore, over 2 800 cattle are reported to already be in quarantine camps for slaughtering during August this year at both the Oshakati and Katima plants. Ramakhutla stated that the increase in throughput is attributed to various strategies that were implemented towards the end of last year and earlier this year. “These are the payment of the Meatco support bonus of 50 cents per kilogram with slaughtering as an incentive to quarantine cattle; the increase of the Meatco producer price since the beginning of the year; and the payment of a NCA Marketing Incentive Scheme of N$1 per kilogram from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to support producers because of the quarantine system,” reads the press release. Other activities that are in place to attract more cattle to the northern plants include advance payments to producers who quarantine more than three beasts for slaughtering at Meatco; Meatco’s improved working relationship with Government’s Extension Services as an effort to increase the training and information into which Meatco ploughs N$2,4 million each year; and the possible establishment of feedlots to Government’s Green Scheme Project. Meatco estimates that its northern plants will be open for longer periods each year should all these strategies start paying off by the end of 2007. Meatco has been strategically investigating options for the optimal usage of the abattoirs in the country on a “sound business principle”. This principle was also echoed by Meatco’s Chief Executive Officer Kobus du Plessis during an interview with New Era last month. “Plans are underway to move Meatco from being a commodity driven marketing business to a more specialised niche market with specific customer needs,” explained Du Plessis, who was appointed Meatco CEO on May 1 this year. The new marketing strategy would also focus on opportunities for more value addition to Namibian beef products locally, a brand building process and improving the relationship between the company’s workforce and management for enhanced efficiency. This ultimately means that the beef industry needs to work towards surviving sustainably in a competitive global market where performance of all its operations is of high importance.
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