Bid to contain post-harvest food losses



MASERU – The ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition is awaiting a law that will ensure that contract farming is implemented which will end the mistrust between farmers and buyers in doing business. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition Marketing Manager ’Malehlomela Thakabanna said this at the Post-Harvest Losses Management Multi Stakeholders’ workshop on Tuesday this week. She said that they are on the verge of completing a draft law that would ensure that contract farming is implemented. She believes once contract farming has been implemented business will flow more smoothly between buyers and farmers because it will also enable trust to be built between the two parties.

A beginner in farming, ’Mantolo Mapheleba, said contract farming is good for both farmers and buyers because it ensures that farmers have a reliable market thereby protecting farmers against potential losses. ’Matseleng Kele from Tasty Food Packers also highlighted that contract farming is important between farmers and buyers to build trust, relationship and agreement for business. She said through the support of the Department of Marketing they have held a workshop for grain producers this year as a way of sensitising them on contract farming.

“We already buy sugar beans from Basotho and we believe that if contract farming is introduced it will strengthen the relationship. As Tasty Food Packers we are here calling on all Basotho to deliver sugar beans to us because we want to buy more from them. “One challenge that we are facing with Basotho farmers is delivery of products. They do harvest on time in April but do not distribute their products to us on time and when they cannot find other buyers then they want to sell to us as late as September,” she said.

Contract farming involves production by farmers under agreement with buyers for their outputs. This arrangement can help integrate small-scale farmers into modern agricultural value-chains, providing them with inputs, technical assistance and assured markets.

In line with this, studies conducted reveal that agriculture is weakened by high levels of post-harvest food losses, both in terms of quantity and quality, which negatively affects the mass and volume of food intended for human consumption. Both quantitative and qualitative losses lead to economic losses as farmers end up selling reduced volumes. It is against this background and concerns that the Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU), Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP II) and the Department of Marketing-MAFSN decided it was important to organise a national multi-stakeholders dialogue meeting on improving post-harvest loss management at the farm level.

The workshop was hosted on Tuesday this week with farmers and processors from all around the 10 districts taking part.

The proposed multi-stakeholders forum therefore incorporated different significant role players in the industry to discuss the challenges faced by the farmers at post-harvest stages of the agriculture production process and ways through which such challenges can be overcome. LENAFU Programme Manager, Khotso Lepheana, said the workshop was intended to listen to and discuss the challenges facing farmers as well as respond to those as agriculture can no longer sustain them. He, among others, cited such challenges as lack of access to finance, especially from banks, lack of market access, storage and transport, access to information and technology, equipment as well as policies & regulations.

“The specific objectives are to enhance the stakeholders’ understanding of post-harvest loss management and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses, highlight the key issues, policies and protocols with a negative and positive impact on post-harvest loss management and develop common positions and key messages on post-harvest loss management and agro-processing,” he said.

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