Abattoir calls for govt intervention
ABATTOIR operator, Meraka Lesotho (Pty) Ltd, has bemoaned the lack of support from butcheries, calling for government to institute protectionist policies against imports.
Meraka Lesotho Managing Director, Bernard Ntaote, said the abattoir, which is the biggest in the country, has the capacity to supply “world class” meat to butcheries across the country.
However, he said the limited support from local butcheries, which mostly import their meat from South Africa, had curtailed operations.
“We are asking the government to protect local businesses from outside competition whenever there is surplus production of local meat,” Mr Ntaote said.
“We are aware of free trade laws that govern different regions, but this would not be the first time a company got protection from outside competitors.
“We have examples in the egg and chicken production sectors whereby government suspends importation of such products whenever they are available locally.”
According to Mr Ntaote, Meraka Lesotho has the capacity to meet the entire nation’s beef and mutton needs.
“We are capable and have first class facilities which can serve every Mosotho. Whatever they need they can get from this abattoir”, he said.
Due to low capacity utilisation, Mr Ntaote said, the abattoir only has 36 of the requisite 300 staff members since most of their business comes from individuals and not from butcheries as should be the case.
“Ideally, what should be happening is the abattoir should not be selling to individuals but to businesses like butcheries so that the general public can buy from them,” he said.
“Our prices are low enough to enable meat dealers to make a profit from what they buy from us. So, when we sell to individual buyers, we will be taking the dealers out of business because people will just buy from the abattoir instead of from them.
“At the end of the day, the imports do not benefit the people buying from the butcheries because their mark-up is higher since they would also want to make a profit as well.”
Mr Ntaote said the abattoir would only stop trading with individuals once butcheries agreed to buy from them.
Meraka Lesotho, which is the only licenced abattoir operator in Lesotho, resumed operations in June 2014 after a long closure.
The abattoir is privately-run with government only monitoring to ensure it abides by health and sanitation standards.
“The abattoir is a government facility which has been subleased to Meraka Lesotho,” Mr Ntaote said. “Government does not have any shares in the business except to collect rent for the premises. This is the kind of relationship we enjoy with government.
“Government is also involved with monitoring the meat complies with health standards under the Ministry of Agriculture in the Livestock Services Department.”
The abattoir consists of four freezers and four chiller rooms which can store up to 60 carcasses each at a time.
Mr Ntaote said the slaughtering process is done with minimal pain to the animals, with the carcasses bled out for a long time to elongate the meat’s shelf life and to ensure safety and hygiene.
“Our facility is equipped to ensure we produce healthy, clean meat which is inspected after slaughter and classified as grade A. We are open for anyone to come and inspect for themselves the quality of the meat we produce”, he said.
He added that the abattoir would soon resuscitate their feedlot which enables the abattoir to breed its own livestock for slaughter.
MERAKA Lesotho MD Bernard Ntaote showcases some of the carcasses at the abattoir.