Meatco puts Zamco issue into perspective

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The raw deal… The mobile slaughter unit of Meatco that is at the centre of a debate about the existence of a newly-formed company, called Zamco.

Windhoek

Meatco has never heard of a company called Zambezi Meat Corporation (Zamco) and has no knowledge of its existence and operations. The meat corporation says if the newly established upstart intends to operate as a competitor to Meatco’s new business model it will be welcomed as a competitor business in a free market economy.

This was corporate communication officer of Meatco Rosa Thobias’ response yesterday to an article published in New Era (June 15) entitled “Zambezi Farmers Oppose Mobile Slaughter Unit.”

Thobias believes the article created a wrong perception or tried to influence Zambezi farmers on the future usage of Meatco’s Mobile Slaughter Unit (MSU) in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA).

In the article, prominent cattle farmer in the Zambezi Region Robert Mapenzi was quoted as a farmer representing the steering committee of Zamco. He further claimed Meatco’s high standards to keep animals in quarantine for 21 days would no longer be applicable.

“The 21-day quarantine before slaughter is not a Meatco requirement. However, this a requirement put in place by the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) as a mandatory requirement for meat export purposes out of the region, due to the prevalence of free-roaming buffalo in the Zambezi.

“The Zambezi Region is known to be prone to regular Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) re-occurrences and as a result Meatco, or any new operator of the Katima abattoir, will be required to follow procedures, as stipulated by DVS.

“In the past farmers had to quarantine cattle for 21 days, but this has now been revised to 30 days. It is safe for us to advise the journalist and Zamco to contact DVS for further details of this requirement and many others,” Thobias observes.

He says Meatco’s operations in Katima Mulilo and Oshakati were closed, due to previous outbreaks of FMD – thus the ban and restrictions were as a result of FMD.

“The lease agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and Meatco regarding the management of the northern abattoirs came to an end on March 4, a few weeks after the lifting of FMD restrictions.

“As an organisation Meatco did not find it commercially viable to operate under the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. This need prompted Meatco to consider a new business model. The new business model will operate mobile slaughter units.

“This business model is tailored to the unique circumstances of our communal producers in the NCAs and aims to bring slaughtering services closer to farmers in the NCAs.

“In this way Meatco continues to maintain its statutory obligation and also addresses operational losses, which have accrued in managing the government-owned abattoirs. The new mobile abattoir is expected to be operational by mid-July 2016.”

Some of the benefits of the mobile slaughter unit are that it will reduce transport costs for producers, as the slaughter unit will go to farms and villages. This means the abattoir goes to farms and farmers will not need to transport cattle over long distances.

Only core slaughter staff will be employed, while the fixed-term seasonal support staff will be sourced in the villages where slaughtering will take place, thus creating employment locally.

It also offers operational flexibility, as the mobile slaughter units will allow any amount of cattle available to be slaughtered with ease, stimulating local entrepreneurship, as all the offal will be sold directly to villagers and small SME’s, as well as a reduction of operational costs, as the cost of the mobile slaughter unit will be a fraction of the current fixed abattoirs.

It also offers an opportunity to deploy the mobile unit in the areas south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence in case of future FMD outbreaks in the NCA and an opportunity to deploy the mobile units for game slaughtering during season. This will eventually allow Meatco to capitalise on a new business and income stream through game meat.

“The MSU will target the local market and, therefore, the products will only be for local consumption. Several consultations were held with organised agriculture, including the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), at their AGM in 2015 in the presence of their member affiliates, including Likwama Farmers’ Union in the Zambezi Region.

“Namibia has a free market system and those individual farmers who want to utilise the service of the MSU should not be restricted from doing so. The MSU, will purely focus on the local market and still comply with DVS procedures and will be registered as a C class abattoir,” she said, noting that their database indicates Meatco had 2 000 farmer-clients in the Zambezi prior to the FMD outbreak.

“We’re committed to serve them in the most efficient manner and we stand by our core purpose and reason for our existence over the past 30 years, which is to serve, promote and coordinate the interests of livestock producers in Namibia in the most economically efficient manner, regardless where they find themselves,” she concluded.

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