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Farmers want Meatco NCA subsidiary to stay

2023-04-21  John Muyamba

Farmers want Meatco NCA subsidiary to stay

RUNDU - Farmers in the two Kavango regions, through their farmers’ unions, namely the Kavango East Regional Farmers Union (KERFU) and Kavango West Regional Farmers Union (KWRFU), do not support the idea of dissolving Meatco’s northern communal area (NCA) subsidiary, which Meatco is in the process of doing.

The unions, who held a joint press conference last week at Rundu, said they only agreed to influence government not to put the abattoir’s operation on tender. The farmers advised the government to give operational control of the Rundu abattoir solely to Meatco. This, they said, should be on condition that it is run through the company’s NCA subsidiary and not Meatco South for a maximum of 20 years. They also demanded that Meatco’s NCA subsidiary should not be dissolved, arguing no consultation was done and that there are no compelling reasons to do so.

“Meatco is in the process to dissolve Meatco’s NCA subsidiary, which is the very approach they are convinced would be a vehicle through which Meatco will operate abattoirs in the NCAs,” said KERFU vice chairperson Thomas Nyambe, who read the press statement on behalf of the two unions last week. 

The Rundu abattoir has been slaughtering cattle since December. This has been a test phase for the facility to ensure all is ready before the official business starts within the next two months. However, Nyambe said operating the abattoir through Meatco South will marginalise farmers in the northern communal areas like in the past. 

“On 16 February 2023, KERFU and KWRFU held a meeting to discuss, among others, the affairs of Meatco affecting farmers. At this meeting, it was strongly agreed that Meatco’s NCA subsidiary is the only way to serve the northern farmers. The departmental method will never work as this has been the mode of operation until Meatco pulled out of NCAs in 2015,’’ said Nyambe. 

The two unions are optimistic the NCA abattoir operations have significant potential to sustain itself in the long term. “What is required is to operate the abattoir on sound business principles and not to consider it as corporate social responsibility of Meatco South but rather it should be on the government agenda. Given the challenges in the NCAs, of course, its operation would require support from the government while developing markets and establishing a sustainable framework,’’ Nyambe noted.

He continued that while the upgrading of the Rundu abattoir was underway, KERFU and KWRFU were approached by companies and potential investors for a possible joint venture to operate the Rundu abattoir. In 2019, Meatco executives invited KERFU and KWRFU leadership to a meeting, where the corporation expressed keen interest to operate the Rundu abattoir upon its completion.

“Meatco pleaded for backing from KERFU and KWRFU to operate the abattoir. It was also mentioned during the meeting that, Meatco has developed an NCA strategy, where a dedicated subsidiary would be established to operate abattoirs in NCAs on behalf of the corporation,’’ he said. 

“Both unions consulted farmers who supported the idea for Meatco to operate the Rundu abattoir. KERFU and KWRFU made its position for Meatco to operate the Rundu abattoir public during town hall meetings held in 2019 at Nkurenkuru and Rundu respectively,’’ he noted. 

Both KERFU and KWRFU also wrote letters to the agriculture, water and land reform minister to back Meatco to operate the Rundu abattoir. “To date, farmers have started delivering cattle to the abattoir, but as the unions, we do not know how Meatco hired staff currently working at the abattoir,” said Nyambe.  New Era asked Meatco CEO Mwilima Mushokabanji to divulge details on the decision to dissolve the NCA subsidiary but he declined to comment. “I would prefer that you ask that question to the chairperson of the board. It’s out of my mandate,” said Mushokabanji.

At the time of going to press, the Meatco board did not respond to questions sent to them through their company secretary.

2023-04-21  John Muyamba

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