New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Mutorwa Defends Meatco Plans

Rundu — The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa has sent out a strongly worded statement to farmers opposing the establishment of the new meat entity and advised them to rather leave the law-established flagship company and establish their own concern.

Speaking exclusively to New Era yesterday, the minister made it crystal clear that the government is determined to make space for the new entity and ensure that it is actively involved in the economic development of the country.

"As government, we cannot just sit back and say we are now liberated, we are now on the economic development journey - if not then we might see people revolting," said Mutorwa.

With some farmers opposing the proposed bill, especially the new ownership structure of Meatco, Mutorwa warned farmers that they should rather provide input on the clauses in the bill, rather than revolt against government plans.

"It needs to be clearly emphasized that the current Meatco and its predecessor, Swavleis, were created or established by laws. It follows logically, therefore, that any envisaged entity to replace Meatco must and will have to be established by law," explained the minister.

Many will welcome the sentiments expressed by Mutorwa, since it is widely believed that the envisaged entity will be more inclusive and involve all players in the country's meat industry.

Mutorwa gave assurances that under no circumstances will the local meat industry flagship company be privatized.

The company was established through a consortium of farmers' organisations in 1983 and was known as Swavleis (Pty) Ltd. However, in 1986, the company changed its name to Meatco following a loan injection of N$32.5 million from the then government. Later the cooperative became a parastatal through an Act of Parliament.

"In 2001, that Act was replaced by the Meatco Act of 2001 to be more inclusive for all farmers," he said. Plans are also in the pipeline to modernize the abattoir at Oshakati to boost job creation and to accord the facility export status, according to Mutorwa.

Currently most farmers in the north and north-eastern parts of the country are forced to travel long distances to reach the nearest abattoir at Oshakati. Mutorwa says plans are also well underway to upgrade existing abattoirs in some towns in order to take services closer to the people.

"If we can modernize the abattoir in Oshakati, we will surely boost employment in the country because meat will be processed at the facility without having to send it to South Africa, as it is done now," said the minister.

A delegation headed by the ministry's permanent secretary Joseph Iita is touring the country's 13 regions and convening public meetings pertaining to the proposed legislation that will eventually establish the proposed Meat Company of Namibia and the Namibia Meat Cooperative, with all stakeholders.

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