Propelling the agric sector

…Meatco steps-up Covid-19 mitigatory measures

By Hilary Mare

ARGUABLY Namibia’s biggest contributor in the agricultural sector, Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) – classified as an essential service during the lockdown- has stepped up Covid-19 mitigatory measures as it prepares for its peak slaughter period.

This week, Confidente toured its Windhoek factory where employees were going through intensive Covid-19 screening as plans to go into optimal production were under way.

Confidente understands that all of the corporation’s 770 employees have gone through this process and a facility for this purpose has been set up with professional health care workers at the Windhoek factory.

In an interview, Meatco’s CEO Mushokabanji Mwilima highlighted that agriculture was critical to the economy of Namibia and there was need to keep this sector going as many people depended on it for survival.

“More than 70 percent of our people living in the communal lands are dependent on agriculture and therefore we cannot compromise on this sector. If you look at the livestock sector alone, statistics will show that this sector contributes N$3.5 billion and of this GDP contribution, 50 percent of it is contributed by Meatco.  This is further made possible by the fact that Meatco and subsequently Namibia is the only country in Africa that services advanced luxury meat markets such as China.

“We are completing with world class and advanced competitors such as Brazil and Argentina and we still remain competitive. This is only possible because of our human resources. So, if we do not prioritise the safety of our employees we run the risk of losing key personnel and we do not want that. That is why the exercise we are undertaking is paramount for our progressive company,” he said.

Mwilima also pointed to a proactive approach as one that led to the corporation facing minimal effects from the onslaught of Covid-19.

“We did a risk analysis and we ensured that before we halted slaughtering for a week to prepare safety measure for our employees, we had slaughtered enough to service our markets and therefore, the short break had no negative implications on us,” added Mwilima.

The agricultural value chain was declared an essential service through a proclamation gazetted on Saturday, 28th March 2020. Following consultations with its line Ministries, namely, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land reform and the Ministry Public Enterprises,  Meatco’s management, reconsidered the re-opening date of its abattoir, following various scenario mappings that ensure that robust measures are in place to safeguard staff safety and balancing the performance of the economy while operating during the lockdown period.

“Producers are requested to take note that all our activities, in view of the business being listed as an essential service, will continue as normal on the above mentioned dates subject to Covid-19 safety measures. For the time being, Meatco management is implementing a number of safety procedures and realigning the business in order to conduct business efficiently while at the same time mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.   Amongst these safety procedures is the safety of our Staff and adherence to “strict lockdown protocols” which are considered critical to personnel and public health,” Meatco said.

Slaughtering resumed on Wednesday, 8 April 2020 and will be maintained subject to any directives and laws that may be passed from time to time by the Government.

Earlier in the week, every employee of Meatco was screened to ensure that there was no Covid-19 risk. Apart from this, employees were educated about the virus and were all given immune boosters to help them further as they return to work.