Friday, March 1, 2024
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Wool farmers storm Thaba-Bosiu


…as they demand clarity on sales

Lerato Matheka

Wool farmers are expected to visit Lesotho Wool Centre today to demand answers of sales for their auctioned wool and mohair.

The farmers will be accompanied by the cabinet subcommittee which is chaired by Minister of Communications Science and Technology Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane.

‘Maseribane revealed that following deliberations with wool farmers, the committee have agreed to accompany the farmers in search of answers.

“Last week we received a meeting request from district woolshed committees and wool and mohair farmers and we gave them an ear.

Among the things they raised included failure to receive account sales from Thaba-Bosiu’s Lesotho Wool Centre.

The meeting was attended by farmers from Maseru, Thaba-Tseka, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek and Botha-Bothe.

The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association was not represented.

“Present in this meeting include individual farmers, districts’ committee representatives as well as woolshed committee members. The farmers have a lattiny of complaints following the first auction of their wool and mohair at the Lesotho Wool Centre,” ‘Maseribane explained.

He added, “They formally brought to our attention that they are not happy with the money received for their wool following the sales. They said that they followed the guidance of the government to sell their wool at the Maseru Downing operating at the Lesotho Wool Centre, but the issuesof payment is the plight which has plunged many into severe poverty.”

The minister highlighted that the farmers brought to their attention that some woolsheds have not been paid despite the new district based payments.

“We learned at some woolsheds that only a portion of the farmers have been paid while others have received just part of their payments.

“Some complaints we have received are that payments have been mistakengly paid to the wrong farmers.

“We are going to Thaba-Bosiu on Friday because we want ntate Stone to show us how he works and how he had made his prices determinations,” ‘Maseribane said.

He added, “farmers have not received their account sales which makes it difficult for farmers to know what type of wool they sold, how much they made, how much is owed to then and what was deducted from their monies.”

Maseribane said the visit is intended to bring into light the complaints that the Maseru Downing was smaller than that of BKB despite improved livestock.

“One of the prime concern is the clean and greasy weight of their wool. We discussed this matter at length and agreed that we need to go to Thaba-Bosiu as members of the Subcommittee along with representatives of the farmers. This exercise is going to help us get the information at the same time. And this exercise is only affecting farmers that delivered their wool and mohair to Lesotho Wool Centre,” ‘Maseribane stressed, noting the exercise has been given a timeline of Wednesday to address pending issues including payments.

‘Maseribane noted that it emerged that banks played a role in the delay of payments.

“It has emerged that some bank tellers have stolen farmers’ monies, an issue which we will be handling. Within the set timelines, we have agreed to meet with banks to sort out their interaction with this type of farmers.

“There are incidents where payments were reversed because banks have closed farmers’ accounts despite knowing that they only get money once a year. We are going to address such problems,” the minister said noting that farmers requested politicians to stop politicising their problems.

“We asked that the sector be left as business with no political influence as it seems to be taking that turn. The farmers also requested that the government take the initiative of going to the farmers to show symphathy and gather different views.”

The minster acknowledged that the Lesotho Wool Centre which was a pilot had faults.

He noted that as the committee, they gathered a lot of information and observed fowl play by the broker as well as farmers.

He stressed that some farmers delivered their wool to the centre but withheld their paperwork which affected delayed payments.

“It was as though they want to sabotage the government,” he said.

‘Maseribane said following the centre’s pilot, the government has decided to open the market for qualified brokers to register in the country so as to operate and increase the competitiveness of the sector.

“We have learned South Africa which used to sell Lesotho’s wool and mohair ran a loss of over 4 billion this past season and that says to us this sector has a potential when managed well.

“We have opted to also form a governing body that will be inclusive of all sectors including farmers themselves to help grow the localisation of the industry,” he said, noting the brokers’ market is opened for qualified locals as well.

“For one to operate as a broker to sell for the international market, they need at least 10 000m2 but we will allow even those will have a 7000 m2 operating area,” ‘Maseribane explained.

He stressed through the new regulations, traders are still allowed to trade, but no one is allowed to export the wool outside the country.

Minister Mapesela stressed the subcommittee would help farmers that want to adhere with the policy to have the freedom to be able to use government woolsheds.

“We have discovered that with this pilot exercise, a lot of farmers were victimized with others even being fired from their committee portfolios for standing with the government.

“We are going to go back to the districts to enforce and remind those that have forgotten that the woolsheds are owed by the government but governed by committees, they are not personal properties,” he stressed.

He emphasised that there are a lof of farmers who are complaining of not being paid when they didn’t take their wool to Thaba-Bosiu.

“They are making the most noise throwing stones that this has failed.”

‘Maseribane chipped in saying Basotho needed to be honest in order to handle this matter for their benefit.

“We have been cheated for many years and the government didn’t have the jurisdiction to make any inquiries on the fowl play.

When the farmers were still dealing with BKB and grievances arised, we needed to write to Cape Town before we would be given the opportunity to ask BKB anything but with this new localised method, we are able to go with the farmers and make inquiries and the Friday exercise is proof that despite the shortfalls of the first year, there are a lot of benefits.”

He added, “We need to work together to build, govern and regulate this industry and this is the first step taken by the farmers to approach us.”

The minister said the subcommittee will compile a report which it will present to the national assembly’s ad hoc committee which was formed.

“We will not sit back and say there is an ad hoc committee therefore we will not help the farmers. We are going to do our part and report to the committee,” ‘Maseribane said.

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