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Govt to settle M10m wool, mohair farmers debt

The Minister of Small Businesses, Marketing and Cooperative Chief Thesele 'Maseribane

March 30, 2021 4 min read

4 min read

THE government has pledged to settle an outstanding balance of over M10 million due to the 2 710 wool and mohair farmers who have not received payments for their fibre since 2018.

According to the Minister of Small Businesses, Marketing and Cooperatives Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, the disbursements will start effective from April 7.

The minister made this revelation on Monday in the National Assembly when tabling a report on the outstanding wool and mohair farmers’ payments for the 2018/2019 season.

The total outstanding balance, he said is M10 510 766.10 that was not paid to the farmers by the Chinese businessman Stone Shi through his company, Maseru Dawning which operates the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre.

The report follows an investigation that was conducted by the small business ministry after an outcry by farmers who complained about their unpaid monies.

A two-day investigation that ended on March 17 saw chairmen of local shearing sheds being roped in to assist with details of unpaid farmers and their respective outstanding balances.

In his presentation in Parliament, Chief ’Maseribane said Maseru Dawning shall reimburse all funds the government will use to bail it out.

The findings show that while some of the farmers were paid in full, others were underpaid with most not paid at all.

A total of 2 710 farmers were not paid at all, 36 were underpaid, 1 176 were paid in full and 66 did not appear on the list.

To maintain a high degree of confidence and accuracy, banks, brokers and some farmers were part of the investigations.

According the report, 273 farmers from Thaba-Tseka have an outstanding balance of over M1 million.

The report further shows that the unpaid farmers include 39 from Mafeteng, 122 from Berea, 102 from Butha-Buthe, 419 from Leribe, 146 from Mokhotlong, 371 from Quthing, 665 from Mohale’s Hoek, 254 from Qacha's Nek and 320 from Maseru.

Chief ’Maseribane noted that the 2018/2019 year was quite dramatic in the sale of wool and mohair in the country, with both farmers and the government encountering numerous challenges and some successes.

Wool and mohair are the country’s major agricultural export commodities and together they account for 58.3 percent of all agricultural exports.

Their production remains largely in the hands of smallholder and subsistence farmers.

Despite the significant contribution of the wool and mohair industry to the national economy, the industry has suffered due to an array of challenges such as stock theft, high incidences of diseases (especially sheep scab and anthrax) and extreme weather conditions (including prolonged droughts as well as damaging floods).

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The reports also shows that the government has advanced various interventions, including the design of the ongoing Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP) to address some of the issues in this important sub-sector, thereby reducing poverty and increasing employment.

For both wool and mohair, Lesotho is able to access international markets with some of the mohair utilised in the neighbouring South Africa and the rest exported abroad after it has been scoured.

Lesotho’s wool is sold mainly to China followed by India and to some extent, the Czech Republic, Italy, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom and Egypt.

Over the past 50 years, the Lesotho’s wool was only auctioned in South Africa by SA brokers, mainly BKB (Pty) Ltd until the promulgation of the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair) Regulations No 37 of 2018 that saw the government finally deciding to auction and market the products locally.

For the first time, during the 2018/2019 season, all Lesotho’s wool and mohair were marketed locally by the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre (Maseru Dawning Trading).

At the height of the marketing season, the centre failed to process all the farmers’ payments, resulting in petitions coupled with mass actions that almost brought the government to its knees.

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