Lobatse: Finding export markets for live cattle and meat from the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) affected Ngamiland District is the only solution to manage the burgeoning cattle herd there, the CEO of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), David Falepau, has said. Speaking to journalists at a media briefing here on Tuesday, Falepau said as a result of the labelling of Ngamiland as a Red Zone, movement of cattle and meat from that district was restricted and prevented from reaching Green Zones or FMD-free parts of the country mainly in the south, or exported to unaffected markets in southern Africa, Falepau told.
This resulted in an overpopulation of cattle in Ngamiland, with current numbers estimated to be between 400,000 and 500,000 in an area with a holding capacity for 200,000 to 250,000 cattle. Falepau said even if the BMC's Maun abattoir was operating at full capacity of 100 to 150 animals slaughtered a day, it would still be insufficient to bring the bloated population down.
"The only solution for Ngamiland therefore was to find an export market for live cattle," he said.
Having made this conclusion, it was to be achieved through three solutions: export of live cattle to Zimbabwe, export of meat to Angola and export of live cattle to Angola but not for direct slaughter. Falepau said export of live cattle to Angola could take some time because quarantine facilities must be installed first.
Botswana would take advantage of status of equivalence, a global trade protocol easing trade between countries with the same disease status. This guideline provided a great opportunity for Botswana to consider exporting to Angola and Zimbabwe because both countries had reported cases of FMD before, Falepau pointed out.
Botswana has actually negotiated to have 60, 000 cattle from Ngamiland exported to Zimbabwe for slaughter at an initial rate of 500 that would gradually escalate to 1,250 animals per week, he disclosed. The cattle will be slaughtered at the state-of-the-art abattoirs of Zimbabwe's Cold Storage Company (CSC) in Bulawayo, which is arguably the best slaughtering plant in sub-Sahara Africa, according to Bulawayo 24 News.
Meanwhile, the slaughter of cattle for export to Angola at the BMC's Maun abattoir is scheduled to start on October 31 while a trial run of exporting live cattle from Ngamiland to Zimbabwe will begin on November 7, or earlier, if the necessary facilities are in place.
Falepau said it was important for farmers to understand the beef market in order for them to control their herds appropriately. "The market requires younger cattle," he said. "The big challenge for Botswana, especially in Ngamiland, is that there are a lot of oxen going into the herd. We had to find a way of reducing the number of these oxen as fast as we could, and that is what exporting to Zimbabwe will do for us."