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BMC confident about processes

SHARE   |   Sunday, 05 July 2015   |   By Staff Writer

• Maun abbattoir to increase slaughter
• EU to assess F/town plant

Beef export monopoly Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) have dismissed allegations that the abbattoir recently discovered hundreds of cattle missing at their feedlots during a livestock audit, and that they were forced to put down some stock of cattle slaughtered without veterinary certificates.  
Communications Manager, Brian Dioka, said on Thursday that management is not aware of the alleged incidents as they have never been reported on in their weekly meetings. He said internal audits are carried out on routine basis to assess standards, and audit the facilities and to check if the livestock feed does not have hormones, which could disqualify their products. He said they have internal processes to monitor the quality of their product, which cannot be shared with the public. Allegations were that a livestock audit has uncovered  disappearance of hundreds of cattle from BMC feedlots. The beef monopoly was also alleged to have recently been forced to destroy 150 carcasses of cattle slaughtered without veterinary certificates.
Dioka said BMC adhers to strict livestock movement protocols monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) who issue permits after performing the necessary checks on their processes and stock. "There has never been that precarious moment. There is no way cattle can enter the BMC plant and be slaughtered without undergoing the rigorous assessment. We are keeping to the 0.3% baseline for mortality in our feedlots. We have a dedicated feedlot team led by a Feedlot Manager and a Livestock procurement team that report daily to management. We keep a close eye on our stock as it is the basis for our business," he said. 
He said DVS is a competent authority with capacity to undertake an assessment on processes and facilities, and have the ability and capacity to call BMC to order. He explained that when cattle are loaded, they are recorded and verified in the presence of competent stakeholders. "We have a quality management process managed by the Principal veterinary officer and his team for verification of the authenticity of the BMC product. We also have a competent laboratory to perform a rigorous examination of our stock. Experts from the market we supply often come in to do their own audits," he said, further explaining that a carcass can only be downgraded where cattle are found to have measles or if there is a fault detected within the plant e.g. fridges not performing to standard.  
BMC and private suppliers contracted to it have a total of eight feedlots with a holding capacity of around 30 000 cattle. Two of the feedlots are owned and managed directly by BMC, seven are located near lobatse while one is in Francistown. BMC slaughters a total 800-900 cattle daily, with Lobatse killing 650 per day. The Francistown abbattoir has the capacity to slaughter 400 cattle but due to challenges of erratic supply and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks it currently kills just over 100 daily. The Maun abbattoir currently slaughters 100 cattle daily but the BMC is planning to increase the kill capacity of the plant by 33% to reach 120 cattle by August 2015. To this end, the Maun plant will be closed for management for a month from mid July to mid August.
Dioka expressed optimism that the Maun plant will assist farmers in the Ngamiland area after some countries showed that they are not sensitive to FMD vaccinated cattle while others are interested in buying live cattle from Botswana. He said they are currently pursuing the Angola and Mozambique markets to export to."Our biggest challenge is that farmers are reluctant to vaccinate their cattle. For example over 200 cattle were expected be vaccinated in Kareng recently but only six were presented," he said.
The Francistown plant is currently delisted from the lucrative European Union market due to FMD in the Zone 6 area. The plant is scheduled for an inspection in November by experts from EU. Should the inspection yield positive results the plant will be re-listed as an EU supplier to commence exports to the lucrative market.  BMC and DVS are working around the clock to address challenges for the Francistown abbattoir to be relisted, Dioka revealed. To address the challenges Dioka said DVS is in the process of re-aligning zones in Francistown, which makes part of green zone, by dividing Zone 6 into zone 6A and 6B, with a buffer zone of 10km between the FMD prone area and the city.

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