Thu. May 23rd, 2019

‘Wool farmers to be paid in 19 days’

 . . . ’Maseribane assures restive farmers

 

Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, Chairperson of the Ministers’ Sub-committee on wool and mohair issues who is also the communication minister, this week said farmers will receive their money in 19 days’ time.

Maseribane was addressing wool and mohair farmers at Ha Mahlong woodshed in Thaba Tseka on Wednesday this week where he announced that the farmers who will be paid are those who have submitted their wool and mohair at the Thaba Bosiu woolshed, along with their papers.

The payment will be transferred to their bank accounts while those who do not have bank accounts will be paid by cheques.

One of the farmers, Phera Likotsi told the media he had only received the first batch which was insufficient but expressed hope they will finally be paid so they can meet their needs.

Another farmer, Monts’i Masiane, said they are now reluctant to shear their wool and mohair after waiting in vain for a long time to be paid their dues.

Based on the 2018/2019

At least 3,766 farmers were served, 211,899 were sheared, and 3751 bales were collected with a total weight of 585,095 and on average production was 2,76; from Thaba Tseka alone, according to the district’s wool production report for 2018/2019.

Lesotho’s wool sector, a cash cow for the economy has been pursued by controversy since las year when government moved to put in place regulations criminalising trade in wool and mohair outside the channels prescribed by government.

For decades farmers in the sector were free to trade in wool and mohair with middlemen of their choice.

However, on 4 May 2018, the Agriculture Minister, Mahala Molapo, gazetted the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) Regulations of 2018.

The regulations forbid anyone to trade in wool and mohair without a licence obtained from the Ministry of Small Businesses and state that “the holder of an export licence shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, traded and auctioned in Lesotho”.

Any person found guilty of brokering, testing, processing, trading and auctioning wool and mohair without a licence is liable to a fine of M50 000 or a maximum of five years imprisonment.

In addition, anyone found to be in the business of shearing wool and mohair or exporting without a licence will be fined M20 000 or be imprisoned for two years.

In November last year, amidst pomp and ceremony, government through the Thaba Bosiu centre headed by controversial Chinese businessman Stone Chi, launched the first online auction for Lesotho’s wool.

Some farmers, sceptical of this new way of auctioning wool, chose to hold on to their wool while most of those who obliged have now been waiting for their payment for months without satisfactory explanation from the authorities.

In a case awaiting judgement at the high court, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWGA) is seeking the nullification of the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licencing) (Amendment) Regulations No. 65 of 2018.

The association wants the regulations nullified because they prohibit farmers from selling their wool and mohair from the country of their choice and through the broker of their choice.

The defendants are the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing which implemented the regulations. – Staff Reporter/Lena

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