Government is seriously considering shutting down Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir because it is running at a loss. Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia broke the sad news to Francistown councillors during a Special Full Council meeting last week.
Ralotsia, who was brutally honest in his address, told councillors that the abattoir has been struggling to reach the target of slaughtering 380 cattle per day for the past 10 years. “At times the abattoir slaughters zero cows in a day which does not make business sense. The government incurs operational costs to keep the state of the art abattoir running with no returns,” he noted.
“This issue has been dragging for a very long time so we as politicians we have to tell our electorates the truth about the state of the abattoir. In 2005 the abattoir killed only 43, 855 cattle while in 2006 the plant slaughtered 41, 452.”
According to the Minister, a number of factors are contributing to the current predicament of the abattoir. Amongst the factors, he said famers are not selling their cattle to BMC complaining about low prices offered by the Commission. He also noted that farmers are grouchy that BMC is taking too long to process their payments after selling their cattle.
The minister noted that the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the northern part of the country at times affect the output of the abattoir.
In an effort to keep the cash strapped abattoir afloat, Ralotsia said government has been taking money from the Lobatse abattoir to pay some farmers who sold their cattle in Francistown. He noted that such a move causes delay in processing payments for farmers who sold their cattle to the Commission.
Ralotsia, who is also MP for Kanye North, explained that the BMC Act stipulates that the Commission must be run in an efficient and economic manner; this means that the Francistown plant is seriously underperforming in terms of being efficient and economically viable. “Government has been paying the employees at the plant for nothing as there are no cattle for them to slaughter, which is very unfortunate,” he said.
He admitted that officially, the abattoir is not closed but operationally the plant is shut down due to low output. He noted that the abattoir will be closely monitored for three years before a final decision is taken.
In response, councillors complained that government has failed to properly consult them about the state of the abattoir. They lamented that government continues to cripple the economy of the second city by shutting down operations that created jobs for the locals.