7 December 2012

Namibia: Farmers Reject Meatco Bill

THE government received strong opposition from farmers during its consultation meetings on the proposed bill on the new ownership of Meatco this week.

According to the farmers, the bill is not only poorly assembled, but there is no clarity about the status of the new Meat Company of Namibia, as the proposed bill does not clarify whether it would qualify as a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE), although it makes reference to the SOE Act in many regards.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry started consulting with farmers at Gobabis on Monday, followed by Mariental.

Yesterday it was the turn of famers around Windhoek who got a first glimpse at the proposed bill. They described the meetings as a steamrolling process by the Ministry of Agriculture to finalise the bill for introduction in the National Assembly in February next year.

Meat industry players who attended yesterday’s meeting argued that the bill in its current form does not make provision for the future and that the government has already made up its mind on the shareholding although the principle of the 30% shareholding was never explained.

“In its current form, the bill is poorly assembled with inadequate thought for the commercial, legal and operational implications. We as a people, be it government or producers, should get together and really assemble a sound bill which will serve in the national interests of our country,” said one of the emerging commercial farmers who attended the meeting.

Yet another farmer said: “We need to create a bill that will function for now and in the future. We need a total new platform to discuss and negotiate with government on this bill. Up until now, it was not a negotiation process, it is a consultation and the process was not optimal.”

Another issue that came up at all three meetings was the status of the Meat Company of Namibia.

“We are not in a position to say whether it will be an SOE or not. In terms of the definition of what an SOE is, it does not fall within that definition,” said Stephanie de Klerk of Shikongo Law Chambers, who made the presentation at the meeting.

Government must have 100 percent shareholding in a company for it to qualify as an SOE but in the case of Meatco’s new ownership the producers will have 70 percent and the State 30 percent shareholding in the company.

If Meatco has to pay dividends of 30 percent of its income to the government, it would have less money to pay farmers for their cattle. The farmers say this would give other abattoirs a competitive advantage.

The bill also makes provision for a cooperative of which the farmers would be the only shareholders.

However, farmers expressed concern about some of the obligations provided for in the cooperative by-laws, which include making use of the services of the cooperative and abiding by the decisions of the cooperative council. The cooperative council would be made up of delegates from the regional structures.

Furthermore, the cooperative council would consist of 11 members from the communal farming areas and one member representing emerging commercial farmers. The cooperative council members would be elected for two terms of two years, provided that the minister would have the final decision-making power on representatives elected.

The next consultative meeting will be held at Katima Mulilo.

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