Basotho advised to grow food as wheat price increases

IRENE SEME

MASERU – The main local producer and distributor of wheat flour, Lesotho Flour Mills (LeFM) recently announced new price increases by an average of R300 per metric ton. In its statement, LeFM noted that the decision was attributed to rising prices of raw material and the packaging. The new price increase became effective as of May 20.

For its part the country’s largest bread maker, Blue Ribbon, also announced an increase of M1.30c for a loaf of bread effective from June 1, citing increasing raw material import prices as heavily impacting on that decision.

With the recent increase of wheat price in the global markets and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, experts and humanitarian agencies fear the worst is yet to be expected, with the mostly the less developed countries on the edge of acute food insecurity. The two neighbouring foes, Russia and Ukraine between them account for the largest global wheat exports and experts say Lesotho will be one of the worst hit by the soaring wheat prices.

The announcements have shacken Basotho consumers who already have to grapple with increases in other commodities and services, such as transport, fuel, electricity and water tariffs and general price increases for almost every household need. Local retailer Limpho Lechesa who operates a general café in Qacha’s Nek said he is currently selling 12.5kg of flour for M125.00. Lechesa said he thinks the price increase will affect the sales badly. “Right now I haven’t increased the price, but I will be forced to do so after I buy the new stock because LeFM has increased wholesale prices,” he said.

He explained that his price increases will be determined by factors such as costs of transportation from Maseru to Qacha’s Nek as transport prices have also increased in tandem with fuel price increases. Many operators in the retail sector are hopeful the government will come up with some kind of intervention, saying without any help from the government, the new prices could even force them to close shop as there will be limited sales because of prohibitive prices.

A local consumer Mathabang Molefi said in her view the solution is to resort to producing wheat local. “Even though this solution is not a quick and easy one, I think it is better that as Basotho we should consider ploughing to survive because everything keeps on increasing in prices but the salaries or incomes remain the same. It is even worse when some companies have to retrench people because of the current economic situation,” Molefi said.

Molefi is one of many Basotho who say they experience daily misery in their villages where families are already struggling to have a decent meal and would be in their worst situation very soon. Analysts say indeed things will become worse if the war between Russia and Ukraine does not stop. As of now Russia is marked as the largest exporter of wheat followed by Canada, United States, France and Ukraine at number five as the world’s top wheat producers.

Economic experts say there are at least three things that consumers will need to consider doing in this time of recession and imminent high inflation induced by high food prices, as a means of survival. Among other things they encourage families to reallocate their home budgets to focus more on necessities than the luxuries, avoid taking unnecessary credit and resort to planting things such as vegetables in their yards in order to reduce the cost of buying food. They explain that these actions are immediate solutions which the nation should be encouraged to follow during these hard times.

“Since Lesotho’s trade is reliant on imports from South Africa and our society is consuming a lot of wheat from South Africa, we are indeed troubled if our neighbours will make a decision to increase the prices of wheat,” said one of the experts in an interview. They point out that we are still in crisis after being hard hit by Covid-19 with its various waves and we are again being hit hard by another economic recession. According to these experts, it takes 10 years to recover from recession and in the case of Lesotho they predict that it will likely take more as a less developed country relying heavily on imports.

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