Published March 05, 2012 08:00
The Northern Communal Areas (NCA) remain a challenging operating environment for Meatco, but we have recently been able to export meat from the NCA to one of South Africa’s leading retailers.
Slaughter numbers in the NCA increased even though the Katima Mulilo factory remained closed due to animal health restrictions. Throughput at the Oshakati-abattoir was 11 276 animals for the year according to the unaudited results for 2011/2012 which is an approximate increase of 3610 from the previous financial year. These throughput figures were achieved from a producer-base of around 2000. It is a very small off-take, less than 2%, of the total cattle population in the area.
According to the last census (2010) conducted by the Department of Veterinary Services there are approximately 1.6 million head of cattle in the Northern Communal Areas.
Meatco remains committed to operating in the NCA because of the commercial potential of the large cattle population in the area and because of investments the company has made there over the last 19 years. Being involved as a commercial abattoir with world class processes and capabilities contributes to the national efforts in lifting the current veterinary status of the NCA. Without an export abattoir, commercial development of the slaughter industry in the NCA would not be viable.
The challenge however, remains the NCA producer perspective and their relationship with their cattle. The vast majority of producers in the region do not view cattle farming as a business, but rather as a way of life with strong cultural value. It is one of Meatco’s focal points to educate and inform producers in the NCA of the benefits of managing cattle farming as a sustainable business.
Despite the challenges experienced in the NCA, Meatco maintains a policy of one pricing structure for the entire country. This is part of Meatco’s commitment to the development of a viable and sustainable slaughter industry in the NCA. Stronger producer prices stimulate cattle delivery and paying less per kilogram would result in negative growth in throughput, countering Meatco’s other livestock procurement efforts in the region.
Meatco has to date invested N$297 million in developing the NCA. These investments include the establishment of 77 crush pens and the purchasing of a 6x6 truck so that cattle can be collected and transported from the producer’s farm to the abattoir on a cost recovery basis. Meatco also provides mentorship programmes to educate and train NCA producers on animal health, sustainable farming practices and ox production systems. Meatco also increased its staff complement in the NCA in order to engage producers directly.