Abat­toir calls for govt in­ter­ven­tion

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

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.

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