South reels as Farmers Meat Market prepares to shut doors

Windhoek-The local meat export industry is to lose a gem in the mainstay of Namibian sheep farming when the Farmers Meat Market's Mariental abattoir shuts its gates on September 30.

Directors of the state-of-the-art EU-approved abattoir, which exports lamb and springbok meat to Europe, Norway and South Africa, have confirmed to Farmers Forum that the private company's proud record since 1998 will come to an end at the end of this month.

The export abattoir complies with world food standard requirements and therefore adheres to international traceability and health standards. The Namibian livestock producer formed an integral part of the company and was the primary link in the value-adding chain of the meat industry.

But the tide has changed and tough economic times, coupled with consecutive droughts, the non-availability of slaughter-ready sheep and low sheep prices all played a part in the decision to close the facility.

The Mariental Abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 260,000 lambs annually and slaughters about 12,000 springbok yearly to supply customers in South Africa and abroad. Lamb meat is de-boned for the European and Norwegian markets under strict food safety and hygiene standards.

The financially unstable Mariental Abattoir, which falls under the Farmers' Meat Market, employed some 150 employees and the closure came about due to it operating below capacity. As a result, it was running at a financial loss.

Executive chairperson Christo van Niekerk says all stakeholders have already been informed about the closure due to economic reasons.

Due to severe drought and the unfavourable trading conditions in the small stock industry in Namibia, the company has made big losses and continues to make those losses. The shareholders of the company cannot sustain these losses and operations at the abattoir will cease at the end of the month, van Niekerk said.

Through an unfortunate confluence of events, it is the expressed opinion of the board that the operating environment for an export-approved abattoir has degenerated to such an extent that the business is no longer viable, he noted, further adding that the company has invested substantially in the world class export approved abattoir and has created job opportunities for many Namibians in the process.

It is a sad reality that due to a lack of support for local value addition they have to bid their producers, employees and stakeholders farewell. Retrenchment packages and all salary payments will be dealt with before the closure on September 30. The Farmers' Meat Market had positioned itself by investing heavily in its Mariental abattoir in the form of a N$4 million de-boning plant some ten years ago. It is estimated that the abattoir slaughtered at less than half of its capacity over the past year.

During the same period, some 80 percent of all marketable sheep left the country on the hoof. No export levy is imposed on the export of live 'slaughterable' small stock. This means abattoirs are not able to pay a competitive price to producers and therefore the vast number of slaughterable small stock leave Namibia on the hoof.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia