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Meatco is in ICU – Schlettwein

AGRICULTURE minister Calle Schlettwein described the state-owned meat-processing and meat-marketing entity, Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco), as a limping organisation which is in intensive care.

Speaking during his staff address in Windhoek yesterday, Schlettwein said there will come a time when the government will take a hard decision on the limping organisation.

“The nurse sitting there is waiting whether he should switch off the machine or he should put new gas in the oxygen cylinders,” Schlettwein said.

“But upfront, they are saying, there comes a time when we have to make a decision and it’s a hard decision.”

He said the ministry needs to take a decision which is in the best interest of farmers.

“If there is leakage, if we are paying other things, other than supporting production, I am sceptical whether that support is impactful,” he said.

Money is running out and it will dry up, Schlettwein said.

He also expressed his disappointment with the abattoirs in the north, which with the exception of Katima Mulilo have stopped slaughtering, which sees individual farmers slaughtering under trees and selling meat piece by piece.

The minister said non-operational abattoirs in the north such as Rundu, Oshakati and Opuwo is something “rightfully wrong”.

Schlettwein said half of the cattle in the north does not have a market, and the Katima Mulilo abattoir currently supplies meat to the north, Windhoek and Ghana.

“Most of the abattoirs in the north are in mortuaries. They are not in the ICU,” he said.

On Friday, the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) accused Meatco of sidelining communal farmers south and north of the cordon fence.

The union said farmers who are members of Meatco have raised concerns with union leadership regarding the entity.

“It targeted specific commercial farmers Meatco is paying high prices to. The trend has been going on for long now regarding selective engagement.”

“Meatco is in the process of dissolving the northern communal area (NCA) subsidiary, which is the only means to serve the northern farmers. No consultation with farmers but currently [they are] doing it secretly,” the NNFU said on Friday.

The union accused Meatco of paying very high and incomparable prices for commercial farmers and very low prices for communal farmers in the NCAs, including communal farmers south of the veterinary cordon fence.

The sustainability of Meatco is a big question mark, with increasing poor management and performance of the organisation. [They have] ever increasing debts and [receive] continuous bailouts by the government, which never happened before, the NNFU said.

Meatco chief executive officer Mwilima Mushokabanji said he disagrees with Schlettwein who claims that the parastatal is in ICU and that its abattoirs are in the mortuary.

“That’s his own opinion and perception. I don’t see abattoirs in a mortuary, I see opportunities,” he said.

He said Meatco had managed to establish lucrative markets in Ghana, China, Angola and the United Kingdom, something that was never done before. He added that Meatco will also start exporting meat to the Middle East.

Mushokabanji said that Meatco had not been able to slaughter a substantive number of cattle as the country had lost 50% of its cattle due to the 2019 drought, but it is in the process of starting to slaughter 52 000 cattle per year.

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