Abattoir Gets Rolling

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By Surihe Gaomas WITVLEI The sleepy village of Witvlei yesterday officially sprang onto the export market with a big bang, with up to 600 cattle slaughtered, processed and packaged to meet the huge international demand for Namibian beef. Officially inaugurating the Witvlei Meat Abattoir and Meat Processing Plant, President Hifikepunye Pohamba said that a new lifeline has been injected into the sleepy village. “Investors have injected new blood into Witvlei and people will not look at it as a ghost town anymore,” said the Head of State. He commended the town’s local investors, Sydney Martin and Frank Fredericks, as well as three Norwegian partners for establishing Witvlei as a unique export producer of Namibian beef. The latest joint venture lives up to the country’s ideal of value addition to local products. Namibia is known to have most of its cattle stocks exported to South Africa on the hoof, but with the opening of the Witvlei abattoir more value will be added to the beef production sector. “This is a sign that the growing numbers of foreign and domestic investors are heeding government’s call to make value addition a reality,” said the President when addressing close to 500 invited dignitaries and other guests. In April 2001, a consortium tendered to build the abattoir for the amount of N$18 million as a key project with the capacity to slaughter 100 – 150 cattle per day. Executive Chairperson of Witvlei Meat (Pty) Ltd, Sydney Martin, recounted the history of the abattoir. He said in light of the fact that the abattoir was in liquidation two years ago, he and his business partners seized the opportunity, working round the clock to be the next owners. They then applied to Agribank for funds for a takeover of the plant but had to wait until the liquidation was finalized. Exactly a week after signing a lease agreement on August 1, 2006 with the right of refusal to buy, the first cattle were slaughtered at the abattoir. Martin added that Witvlei Meat is gearing itself to become part of the value chain to the benefit of its investors and shareholders. “Statistics show that red meat is the fastest growing agricultural industry in the world and producers must cash in on this boom,” said Martin. In light of this, commercial and communal farmers were urged to look at increasing the overall quality of their cattle rearing and effective farming methods, to raise feed quality using lick supplements especially phosphate, devise land management protocols and invest in pastures. Martin was upbeat that Namibia without any doubt has the best quality beef around, which is regarded highly in the European market. Speaking at the same occasion, Managing Director of Fatland group of Companies, Leif Malvin Knutsen, said that although in the past Norwegians were sceptical of beef from Africa, they had changed their minds after finding out the high health standards of Namibia’s animals and the hygienic standards of its abattoirs, cutting facilities and cooling and freezing systems. “The quality of Namibian beef is excellent. The plant is located in a considerable cattle area with many skilled farmers on larger and small farms,” said Knutsen, adding that the only main requirement is that Namibian beef cuts shipped to Norway must be Salmonella free. In future the Norwegian partners, namely Fatland, Michelsen Brothers and the Norwegian Counsel in Windhoek, will be looking at also importing weaners from Namibia. He concluded by saying that they will investigate the possibility of processing meat products at Witvlei for the retail market in Norway. Currently the plant employs 81 locals. President Pohamba, who also had a grand tour of the facility, was highly impressed by the products the plant is delivering for export.