Having now served his 100 days in office since his appointment on the 1st of February 2020, the Windhoek Observer (WO) caught up with youthfull Meatco Chief Executive Officer, Mwilima Mushokobanji (MM) to share his experiences and plans for the meat processor and below is an extract of the interview:
WO) It’s been more than 100 days since your appointment, kindly share with us what you had set-out to do and if you achieved it?
MM) It’s been busy, I have been doing familiarization tours around the various departments, realigned EXCO for better efficiency and some business units for efficiency. I almost at the stage to finalize the Meatco Integrated Business Plan for submission to the Board and ultimately to the Ministry of Public Enterprises.
WO) Of what impact has the emergence of COVID19 had on the business, considering the business is export oriented?
MM) We are conscious that Meatco is operating in the business environment which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Therefore we had to be agile and adopt as a business, no one was ever ready for COVID-19. Meatco was listed as an essential service and business continued to operate as normal during this difficult time. One thing that I need to highlight is that although HORECA (Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers) are closed, people still need to eat as food or protein continues to be a basic necessity.
WO) What progress has been made in increasing exports to the USA?
MM) It’s too early to be talking about this newly established market. What I can tell is that our consignment arrived in the middle of deep Covid-19 times, where some of the food processors were under lockdown in the USA therefore, arriving at the much needed time. We continue to produce for our clients in the USA and we shall assess our performance in the USA towards the end of the year.
WO) With the emergence of COVID19, will the company be able to fulfil its Norway quota?
MM) Norway quota is very strategic to the Meatco business as it the markets. We are certain that as we approach year end we will by then have met our quota.
WO) Kindly share with us the rationale behind the setting up of the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) business and why its own operating structure?
MM) More than 70 percent of the Namibian population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods in terms of food, employment and income. Meatco as a company established by an Act of Parliament has a fiduciary duty to serve all the commercial, emerging and communal farmers in the livestock farming areas of Namibia. Actually, livestock farmers in the NCA, had no access to formal markets in Namibia or lucrative export markets since the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2015 which was compounded by a withdrawal of Meatco from operating the Oshakati and Katima Mulilo abattoirs in 2016. Recently, Cabinet directed Meatco to go back in the NCA to operate the Rundu Abattoir and also to assist the operators of Katima Mulilo and Oshakati abattoirs in order to provide a market for the farmers. The NCA abattoirs have been renovated to export standard and will be able to access niche markets in Africa and the Middle East through the Commodity Based Trade approach. CBT is a process or procedure that enables beef from the areas susceptible to outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
WO) The business recorded a huge loss in the pass financial year. How do you plan to address that?
MM) The year 2019 was indeed a very unique year and it had it’s challenges. Meatco assisted farmers and for the first in 4-years ,the company was able to slaughter at full capacity (116,000 cattle) because a lot of farmers sold their animals to reduce pressure on grazing and to avoid animals dying on the farms, thereby incurring losses. Thus, Meatco paid over N$ 1.1 billion to the producers, an amount which included nearly a premium of N$ 200 million over and above the South African parity price. With respect to international markets, there was an oversupply of meat from older animals and as a result we did not realise our projected market realisation.
WO) As part of your strategy, are you considering also increasing role of Meatco in the local meet market?
MM) Yes, definitely we have our own local brand namely MeatMa (Meat Market Africa) which was launched in 2014. MeatMa’s aim is to consistently provide the Namibian market with a “basket of proteins”, containing high quality products at affordable prices. The MeatMa range is a complete assortment of value-added beef products such as braaiwors, beef patties, beef mince and burgers. This initiative forms part of the wider Meatco market diversification strategy and is in support of the Growth at Home Strategy. MeatMa products are available in 52 retail stores and restaurants countrywide, with our biggest distributors being Woermann Brock and Metro. Furthermore, In June 2019, Meatco introduced its Export Quality Brand which offers export quality beef in primal cuts such as rump, fillet striploin, silverside and topside, which usually are exported to the international markets. For the time being, the export quality products are available in Food Lovers Market outlets in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
WO) Of what impact will the new Public Enterprises Governance Act (PEGA) regulations have on the operations of the business?
MM) Meatco is now classified as a Commercial Public Enterprise under PEGA which was gazetted in 2019. The PEGA came into force during January 2020. As such we will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform as well as the Ministry of Public Enterprises in terms of policy and strategic guidance. This change has not affected the business model of Meatco, therefore it is business as usual and we remain committed to make Meatco competitive, profitable and sustainable for the benefits of all our stakeholders.