Windfall for cattle farmers

Windfall for cattle farmers

MASERU – THE national abattoir, Meraka Lesotho, says it will begin buying cattle and sheep for slaughter from local farmers with effect from next Wednesday. The decision, which comes after the government banned red meats imports, could see local farmers smiling all the way to the bank.
Small Businesses Development Minister Chalane Phori confirmed this week that his ministry had banned indefinitely all red meat imports.
Phori said the idea behind the ban is to create a monopoly for Basotho cattle farmers after realizing they were no match to South African businesses.
Such a monopoly would cushion Basotho farmers and help their businesses grow in line with the government’s programme to create jobs. Lesotho’s unemployment rate stands at a staggering 40 percent.

Phori said the move will also boost the local red meat production. “Livestock farmers have been struggling in terms of market access hence the quality of their production was not excellent,” Phori said. “This initiative that Meraka has introduced will help farmers improve their livestock not only in terms of quality but also quantity as now they know where to sell their livestock,” he said.

“Farmers do not have to wait for the monthly livestock auctions. Any time they are ready to sell all they have to do is go to Meraka on a Wednesday and their livestock will be sold,” he said. Phori said they have agreed that Meraka will operate on a life-weight basis where livestock will be weighed before being sold unlike in the past when one would use the naked eye to determine the price of the animal.

“This will also ensure that Meraka buys at the same price that it uses to buy livestock in South Africa. Basotho will not be subjected to poor or low prices but they will also get appropriate money for the value of their animals,” Phori said.
As a way of ensuring that Meraka buys livestock from local farmers the minister indicated that from December 2017 the ministry stopped issuing import permits for red meat.

The ban has been extended indefinitely. “The importation of red meat is currently illegal. The only time permits are issued for the importation of red meat is when the abattoir does not have the required quantities,” Phori said.
He said Meraka is the only abattoir that is allowed to slaughter livestock at present.
“Butcheries are not supposed to slaughter animals. Theirs is to buy meat from the abattoir and then sell it to Basotho through various channels,” Phori said.

He said butcheries are allowed to buy their own animals and take them to the abattoir for slaughtering.
“Everyone should stay within the confines of their line of work. This issue of having a supermarket licence holder operating a general dealer or a general dealer permit holder operating a spaza shop must stop,” he said.

“It is critical for butcheries and the abattoir to be clear about their roles in this value chain.”
Phori warned that livestock thieves should not try to take chances as they will be arrested because “the abattoir has veterinary doctors and police”.
“On sale days the number of police officers will increase. Everyone selling should have relevant and authentic documents of ownership for every animal sold,” Phori said.

He said while standards are critical Basotho must be allowed to sell their livestock as long as they are in good condition so that at the end of the day they can also be able to produce grade A meat. Mosito Khethisa, the Managing Director of Meraka Lesotho, said they are currently slaughtering 60 cows a week and they need to increase that quantity to meet the abattoir’s capacity which is 100 cows per week.
Khethisa said they recently bought a cow weighing 800 kg for M12 800.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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