Witvlei allocation quota judgement out Thursday

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Sidney Martin of Witvlei Meat, left, in conversation with lawyer Sisa Namandje in court on Monday.

WINDHOEK – The answer to the ongoing boardroom tug of war between Meatco and Witvlei Meat over the 2014 beef quota for Norway is set to be made tomorrow, when Judge Shafimana Uitele will make his ruling in the High Court.

This is after a quibble of lawyers spent nearly a day and half a night of Monday this week presenting their arguments before Judge Uitele over Witvlei Meat’s urgent application to overturn the decision that the allocation of the Norway beef export quota for 2014 should be based on the bidding process.

Namibia is allocated 1 350 tonnes of beef exports to Norway each year, which Namibian beef exporting companies have to fill. However, Meatco and Witvlei are fighting over how the Namibian Cabinet should allocate the quota to meat producers. Meatco was particularly not happy with the 2010 Cabinet decision that until now dictated that the quota be allocated equally to Meatco and Witvlei. The acrimonious standoff between Meatco and Witvlei Meat over the 50:50 formula ended with the decision that meat producers should bid for the quota for next year.

This prompted Witvlei Meat to run to court last week Friday with the urgent application in which it cited Cabinet as the first respondent, the Ministry of Trade and Industry as the second respondent, the Meat Board of Namibia as the third respondent, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry as the fourth respondent, Meatco as fifth respondent and a company called Brukarros Meat Processors as the sixth respondent.

Brukarros is the newcomer to the Norway export market and joined the fray with the application for 200 tonnes of the quota. Although Brukarros does not yet qualify in terms of European Union health requirements, it has applied for qualification and has given an undertaking to be ready when the quota for 2014 is announced by Cabinet early in the new year.

Judge Uitele on Monday reserved judgment until Thursday, in the battle over the allocation of the beef export quota for Norway in 2014.

In court papers, Witvlei points out that in line with the requirements in August 10, 2010 they timeously filed an application for the Norway meat export quota for the year 2014 in October 2013. The application went through the Meat Board, in ambit of the agriculture ministry, to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“Instead of receiving a quota, to our surprise, Witvlei, out of the blue, received a letter from the [Ministry of Trade and Industry in December 9, 2013] which stated: ‘In order to enable us to allocate such quota in a transparent manner and in conformity with existing policies, Cabinet was approached and such quotas are allocated through a bidding process’,” Witvlei says in papers before court.

Witvlei argues that failure to adhere to the terms and conditions of the decision of Cabinet contained in the August 10, 2010 letter to allocate the Norway meat export quota for 2014 has a detrimental effect on its business, as 70 percent of its business is exports to Norway and it being the backbone of the applicant’s business, business will come to an immediate halt.

Witvlei wants the court to “review, correct and set aside Cabinet’s decision contained in the letter written by the ministry of Trade and Industry on December 9, as it’s unfair, unreasonable and unconstitutional.”

In response, the Ministry of Trade and Industry argues that that Witvlei’s application is not only unwarranted for many reasons. “It is also premature as no decision on quota allocation has been made based on the new system, and there is no evidence whatsoever that if Witvlei were to bid  it would be adversely affected.”

It also argued that Witvlei knew that as soon as there is a new entrant the Cabinet and the minister reserved the right to review the allocation of the quota at any time.

Sisa Namandje who represented Cabinet, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry argued for the application to be struck from the roll, as it is not urgent and must be dismissed with costs.

Advocate Andries van Vuuren represented the Meat Board of Namibia, while Advocate Deon Obbes represented Meatco.

Advocate Thabang Phatela, instructed by J Gaya of Mueller Legal Practitioner represented Witvlei.

By Tunomukwathi Asino

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