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‘Where is our money?’ – wool and mohair farmers

Keketso Sello, Lesotho minister for small business, cooperatives and marketing

Oct. 17, 2020 3 min read

3 min read

Unhappy Lesotho wool and mohair farmers disregarded minister’s dialogues resulting to non-attendance and poor attendance while the blame is put squarely on the Minister of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing Keketso Sello for not coming up with answers to farmers’ enduring concerns.

The ministry is seeking to integrate the public opinion, especially from the farmers, in regard to formulating a law that would bring satisfaction to both parties. But farmers said they were only interested on when they would receive their monies for the woold and mohair they have sold via the government’s administration.

“You cannot invite people you owe to come from afar places for such a dialogue when they are starving and desperate for their delayed payments. What they want to hear at this juncture is when you are going to pay them. It’s not surprising that the minister’s gatherings are deemed a flop,” noted Lehlohonolo Tšehlana, a farmer and a politician from Mokhotlong.

Very few farmers had showed up at the minister’s organised meetings in Mokhotlong and Leribe, a situation that did not go well with the minister who said he would consider “doing it his own way” with the amendment of the wool and mohair law if farmers show no interest in his invitations meant to share opinions and have their contributions.

The law which the farmers complain was imposed on them, had previously forced the latter to trade their merchandise through the monopoly of government establishment - the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre. It is reported that some farmers received payments while others were still owed by the centre almost one year down the line.

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The delay in payments was attributed to Lesotho’s wool and mohair worth millions of Maluti that was allegedly stuck in South Africa (SA), as the country’s fibre was not allowed into any market abroad due to restrictions imposed when it suffered an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease that initially occurred in November 2019 and January 2020. However, the issue was later resolved with the Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu further announcing that China has agreed to buy the goods which were in Port Elizabeth, SA.

Even though the previous regime had suspended the new law, giving farmers a green light to sell their merchandise anywhere they opted, farmers still complained that they were restricted to do so by the regulations recently promulgated by the ministry of small businesses.

“Just last week we sent without any hurdle two trucks fully-packed with the merchandise to SA to be auctioned in the markets. To our surprise, a day after, we sent another truck that was prohibited from crossing into SA, with the ministry’s officials citing there were new regulations in place requiring other ‘unfamiliar’ procedures that needed to be followed. We don’t understand why the government is always becoming an obstacle to us,” complained Fusi Selati from Leribe.

The current obstacles are despite wool and mohair famers having heaved a sigh of relief last year after at least five companies were awarded brokering licenses to operate in the country – a relief from tying them to one broker, Thaba Busiu Wool and Mohair Centre.

The new players are: BKB, Maluti Wool and Mohair Centre, OVK (CMW), Frasers and Highlands Veterinary Services.

The opening of the market was forced by the farmers threatening once again to petition the parliament to get a response on the grievances they submitted earlier on. Among others, they preferred to trade with BKB (a SA based company).

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