BW beef finds possible market in Caribbean Island
Famous for its sandy beaches, sunny climate and crystal clear sea waters, the beautiful Bahamas could prove an unlikely destination for one of Botswana’s most sought-after commodities: beef.
As BW goes hunting alternative international markets for its cow meat, the bulk of which currently ends up in the European Union (EU), the tiny Caribbean island has emerged as a new contender.
Giving the media feedback on recent benchmarking visits to Australia and Bahamas on Monday, Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao revealed the Bahamas, home to just over 350, 000 people, were keen to talk ‘meat’.
“We are busy looking at different markets which we can sell our beef to. With Bahamas they don’t have a lot of pastures so we sold them the idea of a grass-fed beef and it’s something they are willing to collaborate on, with plans to send our beef there,” explained Molao, who admitted talks were still at an infancy stage and was unwilling to entertain questions on just how much beef the Bahamas might want.
Along with South Africa and Namibia, Botswana is one of the biggest beef exporters to the EU.
The country sends about 9, 000 tonnes of beef a year to the union, where it enjoys unlimited preferential market access which is both duty and quota-free.
However, there is plenty of meat that does not meet the grade.
“As much as meat from Chobe and Ngamiland is healthy, it is not sold to the EU market because of their stringent measures of not wanting any meat from a red zone. So we have to explore other markets to take our meat there. The aim is to add Bahamas as one of those markets because it is a very interesting market in terms of money. Their currency is strong as the US Dollar, so being able to enter that market means a lot for local farmers,” stressed Minister Molao – at the moment 1US$ gets you P13.65!
He further disclosed that once talks are concluded, the Bahamas party will come to Botswana to assess local facilities, make sure veterinary protocols are up to standard and discuss ways in which the meat will get to the Caribbean Islands.
Closer to home, and BW beef as well as live cattle are also exported to: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
Meanwhile, delving deeper into the trip, Molao said that while in Oz, the touring team took particular interest in two Australian cow breeds, the brilliantly named Drought Master and the world famous Wagyu.
As a result, the Ministry purchased 3, 000 and 1, 000 semen straws of each, which will be resold to Batswana when they eventually arrive.
This, Molao explained, was part of government’s efforts to develop the local agricultural industries.
Without ignoring the sub-sector of dairy farming, which has been stagnant for years, the Minister said that while Down Under, they were particularly impressed by the Australian Saanen goat, a well-known specialist in milk production.
“These are goats which we also took interest in as a country. We wish to get them here such that Batswana can raise them even at small scale. As much as goat milk is pricy, they are a breed which can alleviate our milk problems as well as allow us to venture into value chain development of milk, with production of products such as cheese and yoghurt.”
Insisting milk’s sour story could have a sweet ending, Molao said, “With regards to milk from the cattle side of things, Milk Afric didn’t progress the way we wanted but we can’t pin our hopes on it alone. We want to explore other opportunities for our own milk, such that we reduce overreliance on imports.”
Botswana’s demand for milk stands at 60 million litres annually, with local production able to quench just 8 million litres of this.
Calling for more, Acting Director Department of Animal Production, Dr Kobedi Segale said, “Our production is steady, it’s not growing or reducing but that doesn’t mean we should celebrate.
“It’s a small industry but there are initiatives put in place to assist the sub sector such as Artificial Insemination services, which are extended to dairy farming. The good thing about this one is that farmers get sexed semen so they are always sure that the offspring is going to be dairy breed heifer. Further there is protection of local milk, that is we use our own milk first from there that’s when we import to deal with the deficit.”
Dr Segale added that considering the dairy sector’s lack of growth, the plan is for review to see what can be improved.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE BAHAMAS
1. The Bahamas is next-door to Florida, with the island of Bimini just 80km away from the American state’s southern most tip.
2. The Bahamas is home to the planet’s third largest great barrier reef.
3. There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, though only about 30 are actually inhabited.
4. It is a popular Hollywood film site, with several scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean and Casino Royale shot here.
5. There are only a handful of beaches with pink sand in the world, and the Bahamas lays claim to one of the best! Aptly named Pink Sands Beach, you can find this spectacular stretch of sand on Harbour Island.
6. You can make friends with swimming pigs! There is a colony of huge pink pigs in the Bahamas that love swimming in the warm, shallow waters.