NAMIBIA – “Witvlei Meat is not for sale. Let me make it clear to all those gossipers out there. Witvlei Meat will start with operations soon and we will fill our quota of 350 metric tons for the Norwegian beef market easily within the required time,” was the response from managing director of Witvlei Meat, Sidney Martin, about the talks doing the rounds that Witvlei Meat is about to be sold.
The factory has just been renovated, which shot off speculations that it is being renovated for a new buyer. Speculations also compounded the fears among workers, who were already rattled by Meatco’s announcement that it is willing to buy the abattoir lock, stock and barrel.
“How many times must I repeat myself? We did not invest more than N$15 million just to start up the facility eight years ago, just to sell it to the first buyer when times are tough,” a clearly irate Martin said when contacted yesterday at his farm in the Omaheke Region.
Witvlei Meat has until the end of October to fill its quota for the Norwegian export market.
Martin says the compulsory medical inspections of both workers and the premises in accordance with EU regulations will be done soon and after that Witvlei Meat will make a public announcement about the operational procedures for 2015.
Witvlei Meat’s woes started early in 2014 when a reversal of Cabinet’s decision of 2010 to split the beef export quota to the lucrative Norwegian market on a 50:50 basis between Meatco and Witvlei Meat resulted in Witvlei Meat being awarded only 300 metric tons of export beef for Norway while newcomer to the market, Brukarros Meat Processors (BMP) was awarded 100 metric tons and Meatco the bulk of the annual allocation of 1 600 metric tons for the lucrative market in Europe.
Weeks later it transpired that BMP did not qualify in accordance with the stringent EU requirements and its 100 metric tons of beef quota was hastily allocated to Witvlei Meat and Meatco on the original 50:50 split basis.
Before the start of the holiday season, managerial staff of Witvlei Meat marched to Windhoek and were greeted by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, and Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, for talks behind closed doors where their fears were put to rest that Witvlei Meat will not be forced to close down because of the reduced allocation.
Witvlei Meat employs more than 170 people on a full time basis and some 35 casual workers and their earnings from the abattoir in Witvlei provide an income for some 740 people.
Meatco maintains that the current structure of Witvlei Meat as a private company results in effective outflow of wealth and funds from Namibia.
Martin denies this, saying Government has welcomed foreign investors and in the case of Witvlei Meat earnings are pumped back into Witvlei Meat, improving the facilities and services in the interest of the Namibian producers who slaughter with Witvlei Meat and ultimately in the interest of the country’s world-famous beef products.