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Botswana stops exporting beef to EU.

Botswana through BMC has stopped exporting its beef to the European market for at least six months. This follows a recommendation from the EU that BMC should put in place clear documented procedures and relevant official controls in order to grantee that only eligible animals are slaughtered for export to the EU. The EU also said that Botswana should ensure that all its listed export abattoirs fulfil the EU requirements and that records of treatment with veterinary medicinal are kept on farms. When briefing parliament yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture Christian De Graaff said that the observation made in a report on a recent inspection indicates that there are deficiencies in official controls, traceability, abattoir operations and certification procedures.



There was also a misunderstanding between Botswana and the EU over the issue of the re emergence of Foot and Mouth diseases in Ngamiland District. Recently Botswana had reported to the EU about one cow that was diagonised with Foot and Mouth at Kareng, in the Ngamiland District. It is understood that the EU is also worried about the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth in South Africa. Botswana wrote a letter to the EU after

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the outbreak of FMD in South Africa, assuring them that the beef is safe and would not be contaminated or affected by the outbreak that has hit South Africa.

The minister said that Botswana is divided into four disease control territories, but there are still concerns with the safety of beef. He said that the EU is concerned with our traceability system, especially the 40/90 resident requirement. Mr De Graaff said that we can not prove to the EU that the animals stay in holding for a minimum of 40 days before being slaughtered for export to the EU. Similarly, we can not prove that the animals stay in an EU territory for at least 90 days prior to dispatch to the BMC for slaughter. He continued, “Furthermore, we can not verify that withdrawal periods after animals are treated with veterinary drugs are observed. Such meat may find its way into the EU market and could be a health hazard to the EU consumer”.

Recently a Botswana delegation team of Veterinary experts was sent to Brussels where they met with the EU team. The minister told parliament that the government of Botswana is going to use P80 million to satisfy demands by the European Union to improve the safety of our beef so that Botswana can continue selling her beef to the EU market. He said complying with these requirements is going to be a challenge, but said Botswana appreciates the EU’s concerns and a lot needs to be done to secure the lucrative market.

Botswana Meat Commission was recently closed for 2 weeks following an instruction from the director of veterinary services who was not happy with certain conditions related to the safety of the BMC facilities. The BMC was later opened after inspection by the EU delegation. De Graaff said due to the enormity of the project to address the requirements, the government will do it in phases. Phase one will be registration of feedlots to guarantee traceability requirements of the 40/90 days residency in a territory. He said this will be completed by end of April. Phase two will be registration of fenced farms to guarantee traceability requirement of 40/90 days residency in holding territory. He said this will take a period of five months. The minister went on to say “These EU requirements are going to change the way we farm our animals in this country, especially under the communal grazing system. Farmers are now required to keep records of individual treatments and declare that animals going for slaughter have observed the withdrawal periods for drugs”.

The European Union asked that cattle sent to the BMC should be inserted boluses at least 40 days before sending them to the export abattoir. As a measure to address that request, recently the department of Veterinary Services, through their director Dr Phillimon Motsu, released revised cattle movement control protocol.

The revised livestock movement control states that cattle movement permits will only be issued six weeks after bolus insertion. This nullifies the previous arrangement where permits were issued after three days. Cattle should have been resident for a minimum of 40days in a farm /cattle post before the permit is issued. Cattle should have been resident for a minimum of 90 days in a territory of birth; the 90 day requirement will not apply. In case of a direct movement to the export abattoirs from the territory of birth, the 90 day requirement will not apply.

In the first week of February 2011, farmers in Bobirwa District received good news from The Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaff that Zone 7 area has been declared to be free from FMD. This was good news because the area was diagonised with FMD in 2007, and since then, farmers in that area were not able to send the cattle to the BMC. The Minister told farmers that they have started negotiating with EU to consider starting to buy cattle from the Zone 7 area. He had promised to come back with a response before the 1st of May. But now since then, things have changed drastically, starting with the closer of BMC for two weeks, then the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in South Africa and re-emergence of FMD in the Ngamiland area, Kareng in particular has disturbed the beef market.

The absence of the EU market can spell doom to the beef industry in Botswana if alternative markets are not solicited as a matter of urgency. It remains to be seen what measures the authorities will put in place to avoid the impacts the EU suspension will expose to the local beef industry. It is rumoured that the Botswana delegation in Brussels has one of the following mandates to exploit; that the EU should come to Botswana and certify if the BMC abattoirs are suitable enough to enable Botswana to send her beef to alternative markets like South America and China. Should the government of Botswana succeed with their negotiations with the EU, Botswana beef may begin to reach countries that never tasted the local beef.

The question that many Batswana are asking is why only the EU for Botswana beef when so many countries have previously approached Botswana for beef exports. It is alleged that Botswana has been reluctant in sending her beef to other destinations due to he strength of the European market. The European currency is known to have played a significant role in determining the beef destination. Another school of thought has been the infrastructural investment required in those respective countries if were Botswana to sell her beef to those countries. “As most countries base their infrastructural specifications on the EU model, Botswana saw little returns in expanding a commodity she can not even meet its quota with the European market.

In the event the Botswana delegation fails to achieve its mission this may pose a serious danger for the beef industry as the BMC is bound to face storage problems. “Will farmers be able to send their cattle to the BMC for slaughter is a one million pula question and in the absence of slaughtering what is the future of the beef industry.”

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