Govt Plans to Privatise Meatco

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By Francis Mukuzunga OKAHANDJA Government is contemplating loosening its grip on Meatco Namibia and letting the company be run by its own shareholders just like any other private entity, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Nickey Iyambo, has revealed. Iyambo said this during a visit by a Tanzanian ministerial delegation on Wednesday to Meatco’s Okahandja abattoir and meat processing plant. Currently, the 100 percent government-owned parastatal has interests in meat processing in Namibia and is exporting beef and beef products to markets such as South Africa, Europe and the Americas. “Meatco will be de-registered as a government company so that members of the public and in particular, the farmers, can own the company,” he told the entourage. “One will want to see a Meatco that is owned in practical terms by the farmers in the northern and southern areas of the country. Government and Meatco’s management are busy discussing the modalities of how this should be done.” Asked how the company would be run from now on, Iyambo could not shed much light but tasked the current shareholders to chart the way forward. “So far, they are working very well, they are making profit and declaring dividends to their shareholders. This is interesting and very unique to Namibia,” he said. “There have to be some negotiations on whether Government will sell or surrender the abattoirs and this will be decided in future,” said Iyambo. Initially, the company was established through a consortium of farmers’ organisations in 1983 and was known as Swavleis (Pty) Ltd. In 1986, the company changed its name to Meatco following a loan injection of N$32.5 million from the Government. Through an Act of Parliament the cooperative became a parastatal and the abattoirs in Katima Mulilo, Oshakati, Okahandja and Windhoek were transformed and run as part of the company’s establishments. Current owners are farmers who have delivered cattle to Meatco over a period of two years and who have applied to be registered as members. The members are paid out dividends at the end of each financial year. The company has a total employment capacity of 1 200 workers and has offices in South Africa and Europe for direct marketing purposes. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Kobus du Plessis, who gave a presentation of Meatco’s performance after the guided tour, said total turnover for 2005/6 is expected to be over N$900 million. Production volumes at the Windhoek and Okahandja plants combined were almost 140 000 cattle, while the Oshakati and Katima Mulilo plants have a combined volume of more than 16 200 heads slaughtered. He said Meatco has, by now, paid off with interest the loan extended by Government and was now looking at profit. Since the company has been doing so well and international marketing trends are becoming more and more demanding, the company has to put its best foot forward, Du Plessis said. The United Kingdom currently dominates the European market exports at 67 percent, followed by the Netherlands (21%) and other countries. The company’s biggest market so far remains South Africa. Namibian beef is in great demand overseas because the cattle are reared from natural organic systems.