…One -on -One with Acting CEO- Jannie Breytenbach
OVER the past months, the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) commenced its re-alignment strategy that is aimed at a sustainable future for the company. While this exercise has had its fair share of challenges, authorities at the firm have allayed any fears of a sinking ship. In this vein, Confidente’s Business Editor, Hilary Mare (HM) sat down with the Corporations Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jannie Breytenbach(JB) to try and understand the strategy, the way forward and what the future holds for Meatco.
(HM): Can you please share what the status quo at Meatco is right now?
(JB): What is important to note is that our line Minister (Alpheus Naruseb) has given us a directive to go back to have a look at our business model and our operational structure. We also told the Minister that we need to diversify the business, especially with the cattle numbers going down and challenges of the current financial circumstances. We need to make sure that there is sustainability in the company going forward.
(HM): The strategic meeting that took place with the Board last week, what was it about?
(JB): The purpose of it was to first focus on corporate governance to make sure that we are familiar with any changes being implemented and what the expectation from management vis-a-vis the Board is. The other purpose was to strategise for the next five years to see how we are going to align the company to face the current challenges and how we are going to ensure that there is work security for our staff members including how we can contribute to the economy of the country. We believe we have the capacity to contribute and grow the economy of Namibia but we need to get the balance right. We need to make sure that we have got things such as the raw materials so that we are able to compete in the market in terms of the prices we pay to producers.
(HM): With some retrenchments having been witnessed, can we expect more job losses at Meatco?
(JB): Our focus now is to maintain jobs and I think that’s also part of the discussions that we had with our line Minister where we agreed that retrenchments are the last resort especially in the current circumstances. We have introduced a more streamlined organogram and during the process of crafting it, we identified 188 redundant positions. Ever since, there were initiatives from management’s side to bring the number down. We had a head count freeze, opened voluntary retrenchment and voluntary retirement which generated additional positions subsequently bringing the number down from 188 to 74. The challenge now is on how we are going to keep that 74 without generating additional cost. We are therefore looking at additional opportunities for us where we can utilise our staff members. There are also contracts coming to an end which we believe our current staff can assist us to fill up.
(HM): How will the departure of a number of Meatco’s senior executives influence the operational effectiveness of the company?
(JB): A lot of senior executives that have departed had accumulated a lot of experience in the company and although this is not a major concern it remains a loss of experience over a certain period time. I believe it’s a test on succession in our company. We have got under-studies and people who currently can stand in and these are doing a very good job. We also believe that we need to generate opportunities for our staff inside before we go outside and that is our primary plan for filling the void that has been created by those that have departed.
(HM): When does the current process of re-alignment ends?
(JB): Just to put things into perspective, our five year strategic plan ended last year and this year we have put in place a one year turnaround strategy just to make sure that we get the basics back into the company. Re-alignment is part of the turnaround strategy. It is a five point strategy that we began in the beginning of February and now we are giving feedback to the Board on where we stand. We are actually now 80 percenti n terms of completion. We believe therefore that by the end of September, we will be done with the re-alignment initiative.
(HM): Just how important is a company like Meatco in the Namibian economy?
(JB): I think that the role that we play as Meatco is very vital and we have potential to generate foreign income. We also play a key role of putting out the benchmark price for the Namibian farmers and give them that security that is crucial for their operations.
(HM): Disgruntled producers; how are you going to deal with that?
(JB): I think it’s a sensitive matter but as management and the Board and as responsible citizens, we need to deal with it. We are of the firm belief that in Namibia we can sit around the table and sort out our differences. Going forward, part of strategy is to realise the importance of our producers and also to look after our producers because they are important to us.
(HM): There seems to be people within Meatco that are giving media information about Meatco. What is your view in this regard?
(JB): This is strictly not on our code of conduct or the way that we do business. I don’t think this is right and we are 100% percent against that.
(HM): Generally, where do you see Meatco in the next two years?
(JB): Meatco needs to play a major role in the total meat industry and also stabilise the meat industry. We believe that the whole industry needs to come together under the guidance of our line Minister and come up with strategies for the next 10 years that make sure we develop and we grow the industry. Our concern is that cattle herd is getting smaller and younger and these are red lights for the future of our industry. I believe Meatco in the next few years can play a major role in that it can pay farmers well and keep the farmers on the farms for Namibia. I believe we can also create additional jobs, we have real potential. We have global markets and if we can obtain the raw materials, we will sit with a meat industry that can be benchmarked with the best in the world.
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