MASERU – An estimated M600 million in the country’s wool and mohair sales goes to the middlemen who sell the fibre on behalf of local producers.
Farmers are, as a result, crying foul, calling for government to assist in abolishing the role of middlemen and sell directly to the buyers. This would significantly increase proceeds while farmers would yield more rewards.
Currently, the wool industry is valued at over M1 billion, but only around M400 million goes to the farmers. The middlemen take the lion’s share at around M600 million at the expense of Basotho farmers.
This was revealed on Monday during an event where a total of 56 shepherds, through the support of the Prime Minister’s Office, with its Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP) were awarded sheep, 10 ewes and a ram each, to kick-start their entrepreneurship journey.
The recipients, who were selected randomly with the support of the district councilors, were drawn from Semonkong, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek.
Farmers revealed during the event that while the industry is undoubtedly one of the major economic pillars in the country, their struggles are deeper than envisaged.
Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro agreed that stakeholders will have to join hands to come up with a lasting solution that will see players in the multi-million industry reaping more benefits.
“While we are here, it is important to emphasise our desire to see our produce going straight to the buyers without having to deal with the middlemen as is currently the case. This would strengthen the industry even further and alleviate poverty.
“Lesotho is one of the best producers of wool and mohair in the world, but as players in the industry, we are struggling to put food on the table.
“Even more challenging is the fact that we invest a lot in our production to ensure that we produce the best quality for the market,” said Mpho Sekonyela, one of the wool and mohair producers in Quthing.
According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), wool is the leading commodity exported by Lesotho and mohair is the fifth largest.
Wool and mohair are the main agricultural exports in the country and Lesotho is the world’s second producer of mohair after South Africa, producing around 14 percent of the world’s mohair. Marketing of Lesotho’s wool and mohair is unique for smallholder producers.
Individual smallholder producers are marketing most of their wool directly at a major international auction market in Port Elizabeth, in South Africa (SA), where wool and mohair are primarily handled by SA marketing agent, BKB.
The prime minister agreed with the farmers that this can come to an end through stakeholder collaboration.
“Wool produces M1 billion in sales but only M400 million goes to farmers. There is another M600 million which just vanishes into thin air.
“This is the amount that goes straight to the middlemen who does business on behalf of our producers. So we have to sit and plan the best way forward as we develop the industry,” Dr Majoro said.