Red meat industry set for a boom!

Red meat industry set for a boom!

MASERU – FOR decades Lesotho has relied heavily on meat imports from its giant neighbour, South Africa.
When it has produced its own meat, the quality has been generally poor.
What Lesotho could only produce was grade C meat with all the grade A and B meat coming from South Africa.

Economists say one of the biggest structural flaws of the Lesotho economy is that it is a ‘consumer economy’ that produces very little of its own, forcing the country to rely on imports.
That has been true in the red-meat industry for decades.
But that is now set to change if the results of a recent feasibility study commissioned by the Government of Lesotho under its Economic Diversification Support Project (EDSP) are anything to go by.

The study, which was bankrolled by the African Development Bank (AfDB), says there is massive potential in the Lesotho red-meat industry.
The study found out that it would be financially and economically prudent for the government of Lesotho “to invest public funds into the proposed development of a red-meat value chain”.
But to ensure that the industry is competitive, the study recommends that the government minimizes risks by “keeping capital investment of infrastructure limited at this stage”.

The study proposes that the project be rolled out in phases over the next 10 years.
“The development of a commercially viable red-meat value chain will take time to be implemented and it is therefore proposed that the government phases in the project over a period of 10 years,” says the report.
For the project to succeed, it will require cultural and behaviour changes throughout the value chain from the livestock production in the rural areas and the driver who transports the meat to the retailers.

“Farmers will need to gain an understanding of the intrinsic value of red meat and that an ox is more than a draft animal, a social symbol and part of a socio-economic safety net,” it says.
“The same farmers also need to understand that sheep can provide more than the wool and goats more than the mohair produced – especially when existing breeds are crossed with meat-enhancing qualities.”
The report says one of the biggest constraints of the livestock industry in Lesotho “is the fact that no or very little pastures and fodder are being produced and all (have) to be imported from SA”.

The high-landed price of animal feed places the Lesotho farmer at a disadvantage, the report says.
For that to change, the government must invest “into irrigation infrastructure and support farmers to produce pastures and fodder crops to support the production of beef, lamb, mutton and goat meat”.
“The quality of the livestock herds and flocks should be improved through the import of new breeding material – either live animals or bull and ram semen from selected animals.”

Lesotho will also need to modernise its agriculture through supporting the mechanisation of cultivation activities.
’Matšepo Mohapi, who is the acting animal production officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, says the study shows there is massive potential to develop the red-meat industry in Lesotho.
She said local farmers were only able to currently produce grade C meat with grade A and B red meat being imported from South Africa.

But such a value chain gap can be bridged by scaling up their livestock production capacity to support red-meat production in the country, she said.
“The study has indeed found that there is a (huge) potential for the red-meat industry in the country although there are still some constraints that will need to be addressed,” she said.

One such constraint, she said, was a law that prevents the importation of ruminant animals into Lesotho in order to conserve rangelands which cannot cope due to the high numbers of livestock.
“So the government has decided that importation of ruminants will be allowed but they should not be allowed to get anywhere near the rangelands but will instead be kept in feedlots,” she said.
“Towards this, the government will waive the importation of ruminants on condition they do not go anywhere near our already saturated rangelands.

Instead, livestock production will be done in feedlot facilities where animals are in enclosed space.”
She said the ministry was currently developing guidelines on how the process of importing ruminants for the purposes of producing red-meat will be managed so as not to affect the rangelands.
“Cabinet has already approved the idea meaning that this bottleneck that has hindered the development of the red-meat industry will no longer be there,” she said.

“Once the guidelines are completed, we will embark on sensitization campaigns to alert all stakeholders about the new arrangement.”
Mohapi said the setting up of feedlots will also generate jobs while also ensuring economic development for the country in line with the second National Strategic Development Plan which has identified agriculture as a key driver of economic growth.
“Once the guidelines are in place we expect the private sector to apply for operating licenses for feedlot facilities around the country to produce livestock.”

Business Reporter

 

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