With the country’s beef industry currently faced by a number of challenges, ranging from a persistent drought, which in turn has affected cattle number available for slaughter and disease outbreaks,
the Windhoek Observer (WO) caught up with the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the country’s biggest meat processor, Meatco, Jannie Breytenbach (JB) to discuss the state of the company and the beef industry.
WO: Kindly give us an update on the state of the company?
JB: I think what’s important for us, is to inform the public out there that one of the biggest concerns for Meatco currently is that the Namibian cattle herd is getting smaller and younger.
This is a challenge for the entire industry and there is need to align ourselves and also to come up with strategies on how we are going to deal with that on the industry level.
At Meatco level, especially at the beginning of the year, due to lower cattle numbers, Meatco re-aligned its business to accommodate that and thus minimize our losses.
WO: What strategies are you putting in place?
JB: With focus on increasing our sustainability and compliments in the current financial circumstances, we need to adapt. Our turnaround strategy was actually built on four pillars:
• Increase the cattle numbers.
• Increase efficiency in the company cash flow management. It is very important for us to align that.
• Stakeholder relationships
• Our involvement in the NCA.
Those are the four focus arrears going into this year and I want to tackle them one by one because it’s very important for us and also for the industry.
WO: How do you plan to address the issue of supply, when it comes to cattle numbers feeding into your slaughters?
JB: We need to pay the best possible price that we can afford. For Meatco, our benchmark is the South African parity price which we use to determine our price.
Our secondary focus area is to increase cattle numbers and market access for farmers to Meatco and thus introduced a new booking system to actually assist our farmers and to make it easier for them to do business with us.
In the past there was a very difficult system and the strategy is to make it easier and to assist our farmers that do business with us.
So, we introduced a new booking system where our farmers can now plan months in advance.
The whole purpose of increasing cattle numbers is to increase throughput at the factory because like I said our drive in the business is through cattle numbers.
WO: In terms of your revenues, how do you plan to ensure that the business remains viable and sustainable?
JB: We are looking at increasing our revenue, both locally and internationally. We have identified some opportunities, which will in turn also benefit Namibian producers.
We also received additional quota, roughly 229 tons for this year, so it’s Meatco’s responsibility to fulfill the Norwegian quarter for Namibia and Namibian farmers. That will definitely benefit the Namibian farmers and our bottom line.
The second focus area was to reduce production and administrative costs, especially where we can. We are going back to basics in our business, where we actually plan better and manage our expenditure side on a more effective manner.
Part of that was the re-alignment of the business. The re- alignment includes our work force. The new organogram was approved by our board, where some positions were declared redundant.
In certain areas, we were in a position to stick to the approved organogram without any additional job losses and by doing that, we saved jobs and we are very proud of the achievement there.
On the cash flow side, our focus was to manage our capital in the business, ensure that we sit with sufficient working capital to purchase animals and stick to our current commitments and we were very successful with that and also with the support of our local banks.
WO: When it comes to your stakeholders, how does the company plan to improve the relationship going forward?
JB: Stakeholder relationship is very important in our business. The focus is to actually build relationship, build trust with all our stakeholders, the government, banks, media as well as farmers.
We need to build trust again and to make sure that they know that we are actually working for them, Namibia and farmers. That trust is very important in a business like this going forward.
WO: What about farmers in the NCA?
JB: Meatco will and shall be involved in the NCA and currently we are involved with the mobile slaughter unit. We want to be more involved.
We are also currently assisting the new operators through developing a business plan and this is being done through our Meatco Foundation.
We also plan to play a major role in government’s Harambee Comprehensively Coordinated Initiative on Agricultural Development Programme (Hacciadep).
WO: Have you achieved the targets as set out in the turnaround plan?
JB: We are very proud to announce that of the targets we have set out for ourselves, currently 85 percent off that is already ticked off, we have reached that and have already started yielding results. We are on target with the goals that we have set out.