Drought affects Meatco abattoirs' operations

23 Jul 2013 09:10
WINDHOEK, 23 JUL (NAMPA) – The current drought situation is taking a heavy toll on the meat industry, with Meatco now having been forced to realign its operations at abattoirs by ending the contracts of seasonal, or temporary, employees next month.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco), Advocate Veii Rukoro said at a media conference on Tuesday that the usual off-season period, which commences at the end of September this year, will not see the delivery of enough cattle to sustain the operations at Meatco’s Windhoek and Okahandja facilities this year.
“The supply of slaughter cattle in Namibia is now reaching critical levels, and as we have learned from the previous drought of 1996/1997, it will take five years to stabilise.
This will inevitably require us to review our human resources, as it is simply not viable to retain a staff complement of 1 400 people with such low cattle numbers and reduced operations. This will translate into the non-renewal of all fixed-term contracts (temporary/seasonal employees), which come to an end in August 2013,” he explained.
On a more positive note, Rukoro indicated that the company nonetheless intends to minimise staff losses. Current, temporary employees will be given preferential consideration for permanent appointments.
There are currently 122 vacancies available at Meatco.
Various options were investigated, and it was decided to run both facilities on a rational basis for four months at a time, meaning the Windhoek abattoir will be open for four months while the Okahandja abattoir is closed, followed by the closure of the Windhoek plant for four months while the Okahandja factory is open, a cycle which will be repeated thereafter.
Annually, the period between October to February each year is known as the off-season in the slaughter-cattle industry, when abattoir throughputs are at their lowest levels.
Rukoro raised the concern that during this year, abattoir throughput started to decline considerably in July already. For August 2013, only 6 000 heads of cattle are available for slaughter.
Meatco forecasted a throughput of 78 000 cattle at its two export facilities for 2014. This is a very low number, and will not be able to economically sustain operations at both facilities.
He indicated that the Meat Board of Namibia’s statistics and Meatco’s experiences with current low levels of throughput reaffirm the belief that there will be virtually no slaughter cattle available for the off-season in the country.
Through the realignment process, voluntary separation or early retirement has resulted in 27 vacancies.
However, some seasonal employees may be appointed in permanent positions through the recruitment drive currently underway, where positions are only advertised internally in an effort to mitigate the number of seasonal contract job losses.
Meatco is also working on a strategy to provide the temporary employees who will exit the system with skills and other opportunities in order to empower them to enter the Small and Medium Enterprises’ (SMEs) market as entrepreneurs.
The company has, in this regard, engaged with the entity SMEs Compete in a project specifically aimed at this group of targeted employees.
Rukoro said a fund will be created for these workers, and their details will be kept in a database in order for them to be recruited as service providers to Meatco in the near future.
Any vacancies that will arise in future at Meatco’s factories will not be advertised externally, and the company will rather recall the affected workers who have already acquired specialist skills at abattoirs, for the following six months.
“The state of slaughter cattle numbers to Meatco, as well as the state of the livestock industry as a whole, is extremely worrying at this point. These concerns are elevated when we consider the various factors expected to impact on the sector in 2014,” he added.
Meatco has a staff component of 1 398 workers currently.