Farmers have asked the government to help with the establishment of high-quality livestock breeding and seeds production facilities locally to curtail their reliance on imports for production inputs.
Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU) this week said once this is in place, it would be easier for the country to impose sanctions on the importation of fresh agricultural produce including chicken, pork, fruits and vegetables.
These issues were highlighted during a dialogue between farmers and the Prime Minister, Samuel Matekane, in the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Marketing, Thabo Mofosi, on Monday this week.
LENAFU president, ‘Mathabo Tsepa, also a Qacha’s Nek farmer, District emphasised the need for the country to put sanctions on some of the agricultural produce for Basotho to buy local products only.
Tsepa indicated that farmers encountered challenges in their attempt to chicken and eggs, pork, fruits and vegetables due a to lack of livestock breeding and seeds production facilities in the country.
She said Lesotho would need to block the four commodities from entering the borders once the constraints are resolved.
Tsepa said business consumers and the people at large must be compelled to buy from Basotho farmers through a deliberate introduction of a national purchasing policy.
“There is a need for the country to have its own center where farmers will get the seeds even with low prices,” Tsepa said.
She added: “In order for the farmers to deliver, we urge the government to ensure that farmers are able to get chicks for meat production and egg production in the country, improved piggery reproduction for high standard production of chicken and pork so that the National Policy Purchasing Strategy would be introduced and we will no longer have to import from other countries.”
She indicated that with the introduction of the National Policy Purchasing Strategy and forcing businesses to buy locally, the country would save about M300 million every year it spends on importing fruits and vegetables.
She said banning the importation of agricultural produce would only make sense when local farmers have the necessary production inputs locally.
“This will only be achieved if it is made easy for farmers to get improved seeds for vegetables and fruits in the country. At moment farmers struggle to get improved seeds and that negatively impacts on their production.”
She added that some countries like Botswana had already implemented appropriate strategies to discourage the importation of vegetables, chicken as well as pork from other countries, and that Lesotho could also follow the same lead.
In response, Prime Minister Matekane said all the farmers’ recommendations would be considered and farmers would be consulted.
Matekane indicated however that before a ban on some imports is imposed, there must be enough local production to sustain the country while also looking to stop the erosion of money to other countries.
“Most of the people that form government today have been in the farming business among others, so we are familiar with most of the challenges facing farmers, and we promise to deliver because we already have some ideas on how these challenges can be tackled,” he said.
Matekane affirmed the government’s commitment to helping farmers with all they need for better agricultural production.