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Retailers worry about standards of local produce

The government wants locally produced veges like green peppers on the market

Feb. 2, 2021 3 min read

3 min read

THE decision by the government to ban the importation of selected fresh vegetables including tomatoes, green beans and peppers has been hailed by local producers, however, big retailers such as Pick ’n Pay and Shoprite are likely to worry about the standards and quality of local products.

The Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing announced this week that a one-month ban has been imposed on the importation of these basic vegetables, effective from February 1.

“Pending the available horticultural commodities produced by local agricultural enterprises, the department of marketing is advised to restrict importation of tomatoes, green beans and peppers in an endeavour to facilitate market access for the selected fresh produce. The change is expected to be effective from February 1 – 28, 2021,” the ministry said in a memo.

Previously, big stores in the country used to complain about the quality of local produce, a challenge they argued forced them to import some products from South Africa.

But the ministry told Metro this week that the decision to impose an embargo on the said products came following their own study which confirmed the availability of these horticultural commodities in Lesotho.

The Principal Secretary in the ministry Tankiso Phapano warned that even the big stores currently operating in the country will have to comply and buy the above mentioned products throughout February.

 “We did not just come to this conclusion. We have seen that we currently have these products in abundance and we are guided by the law to impose such bans when it is necessary. The quality of these products is of the highest standard and we will not allow anything to come into the country. These are organic products and everybody is expected to comply and buy local,” Mr Phapano said on Tuesday.

Lesotho does not have any standards requirements for goods that enter the country. That means importers are not obliged by any law to import goods of the highest standards.

Major retailers like Pick ’n Pay and Shoprite however, rely on the South African standards and guidelines in terms of which products are qualified for their customers.

But, since the Lesotho Standards Institution (LSI) became operational in 2020, the country will soon be in a position to regulate and monitor the quality of goods that enter through its borders.

LSI is the national standards body which is mandated to develop and publish national standards, carry out testing activities as well as certification and inspection services.

It is further expected to conduct training to capacitate the industry as well as support public policy and regulation to protect the society.

The acting Chief Executive Officer of LSI, Molebatsi Rabolinyane shared similar views with Mr Phapano, highlighting the importance of businesses complying with the government’s decision.

He showed that as things stand, no one can actually confirm the quality of the products imported from South Africa.

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This, Mr Rabolinyane said is because there is no form of monitoring done by Lesotho when companies operating locally import goods.

He therefore said it would be inane for those companies to complain about the standards and quality because the same products are not monitored when they enter the country.

“It is better to buy local because even if these shops encounter some challenges, it would be a lot easier to trace the responsible suppliers,” he also said.

Before exporting to other countries, South Africa relies on a specialised body, the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) to ensure that its goods are of high standards.

The board is an independent service provider of quality certification and cold chain management services for producers and exporters of perishable food products.

Mr Rabolinyane said to avoid misunderstandings; Lesotho should fast-track efforts towards implementing laws that would allow it to regulate products from both in and outside the country. 



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