Windhoek — A seven-person task team delegated by government and the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) arrived in Windhoek last week on a benchmarking visit.
They are in Namibia to compare the local meat industry with that of Botswana.
On their arrival, Erica Shipo of the Botswana High Commission in Windhoek, said the visitors came to Windhoek to familiarise themselves with the conditions and systems of the Namibian meat industry in an effort to steer their parastatal into a profit-making entity.
The delegation also set out to determine what systems in use at Meatco could be adopted at the BMC.
The visit of the Botswana delegation came at an uncertain time for both Namibian commercial and communal farmers after government last year announced a cabinet decision to acquire a 30 percent stake in Meatco.
Role-players in the local meat industry greeted cabinet's announcement with mixed feelings and the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU), for one, has on several occasions expressed its dissatisfaction with the concept.
Producers have just been reminded again that their input with regard to the proposed Meatco Act and bylaws must be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) before the end of January.
Government undertook a road show in December last year to inform stakeholders about the proposed Meatco laws and to solicit inputs. The Permanent Secretary of the MAWF, Joseph Iita, postponed the closing date for comments and inputs to January 31 this year.
Fears in the Namibian farming sector are that Meatco could head towards becoming a loss-making entity if government turns it into a parastatal.
Towards the middle of last year the BMC issued a press statement in which it admitted severe losses as a parastatal. The losses were P107 million, P88 million and P206 million in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.
The statement also forecast a loss of P77 million for the current financial year (2012/2013). Because of these financial difficulties, the Botswana government gave the BMC a loan of P104 million and lately P250 million.
Various stakeholders in Meatco have warned in the past few months that Meatco could be heading for the same fate if it is turned into a parastatal.
They pointed out that the majority of parastatals in Namibia experience losses running into millions and some of them like Air Namibia had to be bailed out several times already.
The majority of Namibian stakeholders feel that it will be impossible to guarantee that Meatco will continue to make profits if producers do not continue owning the company.
The seven-member delegation from Botswana benchmarked with Meatco and other relevant authorities with regard to marketing processes, livestock procurement, Meatco abattoirs and veterinary services.