Impending doom for Witvlei
Witvlei Meat Managing Director Sydney Martin said this week that the government has not kept its promise of allocating a sufficient quota to its processing plant for the export of beef to Norway.
Martins said that Witvlei Meat is likely to make another loss of more than N$18 million due to being allocated the same quota for the Norwegian market again split equally with Brukarros although the latter plant does not qualify to export beef but only venison and lamb instead. The Meat Board confirmed that Brukarros does hold a clearance certificate from the Directorate of Veterinary Services for the export of beef.
An audibly irate Martin told the Economist that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had no right to present to Cabinet quota allocations adding that this falls under the mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture’s local agency which is responsible for the inspection of abattoir facilities to determine whether they meet the requirements for any particular export market and quota allocation.
“The next rational step for Witvlei Meat is to retrench 165 employees which the staff are currently busy with” Martin said.
He said that an increase in the Norwegian quota allocation to MeatCo is also to blame. On the increased quota to MeatCo, Martin said that the move is monopolistic. Part of Witvlei Meat’s 2014 strategy to ensure larger volumes was based on price incentives for cattle farmers, a move which increased competition in the red meat industry. “I do not understand why the Minister is making promises that he can not keep,” Martin said. Referring to a promise by the government that the quota will be increased from last year’s 350 metric tonnes, Martin charged that in meetings between Witvlei Meat employees and Trade and Industry minister, Hon Calle Schlettwein, they [the employees] were assured that their livelihoods will not be at risk. According to the Meat Board there are two types of quota given by Norway. The GSP quota is for Less Developed Countries via special arrangement and the European Free Trade Agreement which is also given by the Norwegian Government but negotiated under that agreement. MeatCo and Witvlei had equal allocations in 2013 under both agreements of 675,000 kg and 125,000 kg respectively. The Brukkaros allocation started in 2014 with 100,000 kg. Also in 2014, MeatCo’s allocation under the GSP quota was 1025 tonnes and 187.5 tonnes under the FTA quota. Current allocations for Witvlei under the two Norwegian agreements are 295,313 kg and 54,688 kg. Witvlei Meat late last year sent a contingent of meat producers and representatives of the local agricultural unions to a tour of Norway and Hamburg where the meat is kept in cold storage.
The tour included a visit to the largest food exhibition festival in Paris. The purpose of the tour, Martin said, was to familiarise producers with the channels and structures through which their products reach the European market. He claimed that producers do not have enough information on how the systems functions. Martin also rubbished claims that the plant is up for sale.