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NCA ready for meat exports?

The Northern Communal Areas (NCA) might be ready for supplying meat to the export markets, Meatco has suggested.
This comes after the region succesfully exported meat to Woolworths, one of South Africa’s leading retailers despite the veterinary status of the region. Mario Poolman, communications officer at Meatco said: “From a factory perspective, Meatco has greatly enhanced processes, efficiencies and the quality standards of the Oshakati abattoir to such an extent that the factory is now able to export beef to one of South Africa’s leading high-end retailers since the beginning of last year.”
The Oshakati abattoir received full ISO and HACCP certification, and after passing a demanding quality audit, was certified for export to Woolworths SA for the very first time.
“This is an incredible feat for Meatco considering the veterinary status of the region and the rigour of Woolworths’ food quality, food safety and ethical standards. This also confirms that the region has immense potential and that, if further developed, could provide a significant boost to the industry and greatly benefit producers both north and south of the Veterinary Cordon fence,” Poolman said.
Slaughter numbers in the NCA have also increased even though the Katima Mulilo factory remained closed due to animal health restrictions. Throughput at the Oshakati abattoir was 11 276 animals for the year according to the 2011/2012 unaudited results, an increase of 3610 from the previous financial year
Poolman added that Meatco remains committed to operating in the NCA because of the commercial potential of the large cattle population in the area and investments the company has made there over the last 19 years. He, however concedes that without an export abattoir, commercial development of the slaughter industry in the NCA would not be viable.
“The challenge however, remains …the vast majority of producers in the region do not view cattle farming as a business, but rather as a way of life with strong cultural value. It is one of Meatco’s focal points to educate and inform producers in the NCA of the benefits of managing cattle farming as a sustainable business.,” said Poolman.
According to Meatco, the majority of the NCA producers are not knowledgeable of commercial production systems, especially those systems where higher-end markets for beef is the destination.
“Unfortunately the majority of animals delivered to Meatco’s abattoirs in the NCA are old C-grade animals with a high percentage having a 0 fat grading –the lowest fat grading. Many animals also have smaller frames due to traditional farming practices. This type of animal typically yields much smaller, tougher and leaner beef cuts which typically fetch lower prices in the market.”
Meatco has to date invested N$297 million in developing the NCA. These investments include the establishment of 77 crush pens and the purchasing of a 6×6 truck so that cattle can be collected and transported from the producer’s farm to the abattoir on a cost recovery basis. Meatco also provides mentorship programmes to educate and train NCA producers on animal health, sustainable farming practices and ox production systems. Meatco also increased its staff complement in the NCA in order to engage producers directly.

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