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Potato Farmers Band Together: Launch of National Growers’ Association Signals New Era in Agriculture

Business

Kabelo Masoabi

Once viewed as one of the best agricultural produce from the land, potato production has since declined due to many reasons, with unity being labelled the main challenge, but in a significant move towards collaborative progress, potato growers across Lesotho are forming a national association dedicated to amplifying their collective voice and propelling the industry forward.

A Unified Vision for Potato Growers

According to Nthethe Ralitapole, a prominent figure in the potato farming community, a need to push for a nationally centred voice was eminent thus, he has taken the task to spearhead the establishment of the Potato Production Platform (PPP).

He explains that the concept of a unified potato growers’ association has been a long-standing aspiration within their community.

“We see PPP as a beacon of change, fostering partnerships and spearheading innovations that will redefine our industry and magnify its huge potential,” he says.

He notes that the association aims to champion the interests of potato producers including advocating for sector-specific needs as well as driving transformational initiatives.

“Our goal is a build and maintain a thriving potato industry in Lesotho, marked by innovation and significant contributions to the national economy. Potatoes are vital for our food security, nutrition, and income generation,” he stresses.

Lesotho Potato Industry Outlook 2022-2026 report indicates that potato consumption in Lesotho is projected to reach 122 thousand metric tons by 2026.

This according to the report marks an increase of 0.2% from 2021, when the country’s demand for potatoes was 121 thousand metric tons.

“Since 2017, demand for Basotho potatoes has grown at an average rate of 0.3% each year. In 2021, Lesotho ranked 97th in the world for potato consumption, with Oman overtaking them with 121 thousand metric tons. India, the US and Russia ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th in this ranking.”

The report continued noting that production of potatoes in Lesotho is expected to reach 144,590 metric tons by 2026.

“This is a 1.2% increase from 2021 when the country’s output of potatoes was 134,760 metric tons. Since 1966, Lesotho’s potato supply has grown at an average rate of 1.6% per year.

Empowering Producers through Collaboration

With Semonkong being the dominant place for best potato production in the country, Ralitapole notes PPP’s mission extends to enhancing the industry’s competitiveness country-wide.

“We plan to facilitate regular knowledge exchanges, coordinate economic activities, and offer training and educational opportunities to our members.

“These initiatives are designed to bolster industrial potato production and share practical farming insights as well as regional and global innovative practices,” explains Ralitapole.

Addressing Challenges and Building Capacity

A major focus for the association he says is overcoming industry challenges like the scarcity of agricultural inputs which affect timely harvesting.

“Many of us rely on imports for potato seeds and fertilizers from the government whose movement to availing our need determine our success. We are however actively working to change this. Through our collective efforts, we have successfully cultivated potatoes on approximately 106 hectares across the country and this is evidence that unity is power in achieving greatness.”

Forging Ahead with Community Involvement

In collaboration with Mohomane Farm and other sponsors, PPP is organising a pivotal potato study tour in Mohale’s Hoek.

“This event on February 3 will be crucial. We are finalising our constitution and registration, with 95 members expected to attend the tour,” Ralitapole reveals.

He concludes with an invitation, “We welcome all Lesotho-based companies engaged in professional potato cultivation to join us. Our association is a platform for realising the potential of our collective ideas and projects.”

“This initiative marks a new era for potato growers in Lesotho, heralding a future of greater unity, innovation, and prosperity in the agricultural sector,” he says.

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