Namibian beef producers are up in arms over a government plan to take a 30% stake in the country’s largest beef processor and exporter, Meatco. Farmers said previous statements indicated government would leave the producers alone.
The fight over Meatco started two years ago when government took an interest in the company and emphasised it was conceived as a state-owned enterprise. Producers countered that government hoped to benefit from the company’s fortunes and that its involvement would destroy Meatco’s productivity.
Previously, government gave assurances that the beef industry would not be nationalised. Permanent secretary for agriculture Andrew Ndishishi said government will require a stake of at least 30% in the company to safeguard the interests of both itself and communal farmers.
Ryno van der Merwe, president of the Namibia Agricultural Union, said Meatco should remain purely a producers’ organisation. “Government should create an enabling business environment, but it’s up to the private sector to do the business. This is not a task of government.”
Approached for comment, Ndishishi disputed that government ever intended to leave Meatco alone. “Meatco management did not give a convincing explanation as to why government should not seek ownership. There has been some misunderstanding on the ownership of Meatco. For years Meatco has been listed as a parastatal and it does not pay dividends, so it is time to make things clear.” – Servaas van den Bosch