Amid a bitter feud between Agribank and Witvlei Meat about the ownership of the Witvlei abattoir, government has reserved an allocation of 225 tonnes of export beef destined for the lucrative Norwegian market to the closed plant, thus rekindling hopes for jobs at the forlorn village.
When the abattoir closed this year, some 800 workers were left jobless.
Confirming the annual Namibian allocation of 1 600 tonnes for the Norwegian market, general manager of the Meat Board Paul Strydom, as facilitator of the bidding process, told New Era that the Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, made the announcement in the hope that the fight over ownership of the plant would be resolved soon.
The minister also hopes the new owner would be able to process and export the 225 tonnes of prime beef before the deadline of June 30 next year. According to the announcement, Meatco was allocated the lion’s share of 1 200 tonnes of the beef export quota for next year,which amounts to 78.1% of the total available quota of 1 600 tonnes, worth in excess of N$40 million. The third applicant, Brukarros Meat Processors, has been given 175 tonnes.
Strydom stressed that should any of the recipients not be able to deliver their share of the quota before the deadline, the quota share would be allocated to another beef exporter.
“The Norwegian quota offers an exceptionally lucrative market and it is government and the Meat Board’s wish that as many as possible producers of proudly Namibian produced meat will benefit from this market,” he commented.
Strydom says they would also like to see the reopening of the Witvlei abattoir, stressing that the 225 tonnes have not been allocated to Witvlei Meat, the previous operators of the plant, but to the abattoir itself, irrespective of who operates it: “It is open to anyone who has the future of the plant and the people of Witvlei at heart to buy the abattoir and start operations.”
The quota would be managed by the Meat Board, in cooperation with the exporters. Last year, disputes over the quota turned into a legal battle after Witvlei Meat’s quota was slashed, but the company eventually received a slightly higher quota of 350 tonnes.
The increase in the quota to both Meatco and Witvlei was possible because the third party, Brukkaros Meat Processors, could not deliver. Days later, Witvlei Meat announced the closure of its Witvlei abattoir, citing unfair allocation procedures by the then Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein.
Since 2010 Witvlei and Meatco, as the only slaughterhouses, had equal shares of the 1 600-tonne export quota. Cabinet decided in December last year to slash Witvlei’s share from 800 to 300 tonnes upon recommendation of the Meat Board of Namibia.
Chairperson of Witvlei Meat Sidney Martin last week told New Era that if his company is awarded only 225 tonnes this year, he would demand written explanations for the rationale behind the way the allocations were made.
Asked whether this could mean the re-opening of the Witvlei plant in the Omaheke Region, Martin said he does not want to speculate and would wait for the announcement at the end of December.
The new general manager of Brukkaros Meat Processors, Andriet van Niekerk, ensured New Era that the abattoir is fully operational and the company is more than ready to deliver their cut of 175 tonnes to Norway.
Meatco CEO Vekuii Rukoro was earlier quoted as saying he has issues with the Meat Board’s set requirements for allocation of the export quota. He stressed that applicants must be eligible for European Union/Norway export and must have all the relevant documents and valid permits from the competent authorities, in particular the Directorate of Veterinary Services.
He has said on previous occasions that only Meatco has the ability to pass on the full benefit of the Norwegian quota to all Namibian producers.