Botswana Meat Commission Chief Executive Officer Dr Akolang Tombale has rubbished reports that the Zimbabwe government owned beef trader Cold Storage Company (CSC) has totally cut trade ties with BMC, in a move to protect Zimbabwean local meat market.
Speaking in an interview with The Patriot on Sunday Dr Tombale said the CSC had rather stopped importing cattle from Botswana following the outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease in Kareng, in the south of Ngamiland. “The deal is not entirely off, the Zimbabweans pulled out fearing that FMD infected cattle from the area could be accidentally exported to them,” said Tombale.
According to Dr Tombale the Zimbabwe market was supplied live cattle from Ngamiland, hence the particular interest taken on the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the area. He further explained that their Zimbabwean counterparts had promised to resume importing cattle from Botswana after they have carried out an inspection and provided with clearance that there are no traces of the disease in the concerned area. He however stated that he was not sure when that will be, and referred us to the Department of Veterinary Services as the matter was under their jurisdiction. He was however was quick to point out that this has not affected their operations at Maun abattoir as they currently export beef from the Ngamiland to the Democratic Republic of Congo and also supply local dealers.
Despite what Dr Tombale said, the Zimbabwean weekly publication Newsday recently reported that the Zimbabwean government has reportedly suspended an import deal between the Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Botswana Meat Company to protect the local beef industry, has learnt. According to the publication, when the deal collapsed early this year, Zim officials, just like Dr Tombale cited the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in some parts of the country, including Botswana, but minutes of the CSC board meeting seen by the publication indicated that the government stopped the beef imports in order to safeguard local producers. “Minutes of a CSC board meeting dated September 1, 2015, indicate that cattle were being sourced from an area which was not affected by foot-and-mouth disease,” the Newsday wrote.
The publication further stated that the committee was informed that Zimbabwe veterinary authorities were yet to visit Botswana to verify assertions by the Botswana veterinary authorities that the area CSC was drawing its cattle imports far from the areas affected by the FMD. “The committee was further informed that the suspension of cattle imports was mainly triggered by the need to protect local cattle producers, and not by the foot-and-mouth outbreak.”
Efforts to reach the local Department of Veterinary Services proved futile as the Director was said to be on leave. According to the Newsday some reports had also indicated that the deal had been stalled by CSC’s failure to pay for the beef imports. This claim was however also dismissed by Dr Tombale saying that although it was true that CSC still has an outstanding debt to settle with them, the matter was being handled at ministerial level. “ Our government is currently in talks with Zimbabwean officials and the matter will be resolved,” said Tombale.
According to Dr Tombale, they had since resolved to secure all sales they have with the CSC. “They now pay us upfront for every transaction made,” he said. Since the four year deal commenced in 2013, the BMC has according to Dr Tombale sold about 4500 live cattle to Zimbabwe, 4000 in 2013 and about 500 in 2014.