Battle Over Beef Quota Could Escalate

A new battle over Cabinet’s beef export allocations for the Norwegian market could erupt after the Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein threatened legal action against a local weekly newspaper.

His legal action could also target the chairperson of Witvlei Meat, Sidney Martin, who is currently embroiled in High Court suits regarding the quota allocation for the lucrative Norwegian market. Martin has requested Schlettwein to resign alleging the trade minister had not applied himself properly to the beef allocations for the Norway market. In a media statement issued on Friday afternoon, Martin called on Schlettwein to give up office with immediate effect for allegedly “compromising the management and efficiency of the public service, performing acts prejudicial to the administration, discipline and efficiency of his office, his indolence in the performance of his duty and misappropriating his power and position”. Last Thursday Schlettwein had slammed an article in a weekly newspaper published on May 8, calling it defamatory and libellous. Martin’s statement on Friday was his response to an aertisement in the New Era newspaper of May 15, placed by Schelttwein in his official and personal capacity. Martin said BMP (Brukarros Meat Processors) still does not qualify for beef exports to Norway, alleging Schlettwein “falsely” informed Cabinet on the matter. Schlettwein vehemently denied the allegation that he misled Cabinet that the BMP plant was eligible for the Norway beef quota. In the aertisement in New Era, Schlettwein stated that all allegations made in the weekly newspaper were baseless and devoid of any truth.

“I therefore, in the gest terms, reject the gratuitous and highly defamatory suggestion that I misled Cabinet. In view of the serious nature of the allegations in particular the unwarranted and reckless suggestion of dishonesty on my part, the matter is now being handled by my legal practitioners on the basis of whose aice and next course of action will be followed,” Schlettwein warned.

In his response to the aertisement, Martin said Witvlei Meat confirmed the weekly newspaper’s report “as factually correct” and that the Minister of Trade and Industry in fact misled Cabinet regarding the allocation of the beef export quota to Norway for 2014. Martin added that Witvlei Meat had reported the minister’s conduct to the relevant authorities.

Schlettwein cut Witvlei Meat’s beef allocation by 500 tonnes to 300 tonnes, denying the company 70 percent of its business when he announced the results of the bidding process for the lucrative Norwegian market at the beginning of the year. Newcomer to the market, BMP of Keetmanshoop was welcomed into the beef market with an allocation of 100 tonnes, while Meatco got the lion’s share of 1 200 tonnes. During the previous three years the usual allocation of 1 600 tonnes of meat was done on a 50:50 basis between Witvlei Meat and Meatco, but with the entrance of BMP Cabinet decided the quota should be allocated on a bidding basis and that role-players comply with certain criteria.

Schlettwein was quoted as saying he never stated to Cabinet that the BMP cutting plant was in possession of an export certificate for beef. Witvlei Meat allegedly did not meet certain criteria during the bidding process and the allocation was done according to the criteria set out by Cabinet. Schlettwein said each company was scrutinised individually during the bidding process and evaluated accordingly. However, Martin said the criteria put Witvlei Meat at a disaantage because the criteria were vague and unclear.

Martin previously warned the reduced quota could result in the closure of the abattoir and the loss of 165 jobs, which would deprive more than 600 dependants of their main source of income in the Omaheke Region, which is suffering from the second highest unemployment rate in the country.

Martin pointed out that Brukarros was known to have export certification for sheep and game (venison) for several years already, but not beef, adding that Cabinet’s previous decision to split the quota equally, had a provision that it would be reviewed once eligible new beef entrants applied.

He referred to an aert placed that said only invited beef approved facilities should apply for a quota, and also the minister’s submission to Cabinet, legally obtained through a court process and now in the public domain.

“Under the minister’s leadership the quota issue has turned into an intolerable ridicule of process, power and position, and an embarrassment to Namibia,” Martin was quoted as having said.

Source : New Era