MASERU – Lesotho Government has paid a total of M8 million to local wool and mohair farmers whose payments have been lagging behind since the 2018/19 fiscal year. The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Nkaku Kabi, revealed during a media briefing on Tuesday this week that out of the M10 million put aside by the Government earlier this year, a total of M8 million has been paid to the farmers while only M1.9 million is outstanding.
Farmers who have not yet been paid, he said, include those that do not have proper bank accounts while some accounts are reportedly unavailable altogether. “Some people have still not been paid and we are going to make efforts in partnership with the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing as well as the Ministry of Defence to take the remaining M1.9 million and go straight to places where these farmers can be found and pay them.
“Upon my arrival in this ministry earlier, I was told that the money is still there but the problem has been identifying some farmers who are eligible for payment,” Mr Kabi said. Arrangements, he further showed, will be made with relevant stakeholders to ensure that all farmers are paid at the end of the day. Earlier this year, the Government promised to set aside M10, 530, 766 which was needed to pay farmers owed by the Chinese businessman Stone Shi, who runs the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre.
That is the amount that was approved by Cabinet on April 6, towards payment of wool and mohair farmers. The farmers were between 2018 and 2019 forced by the government to take their fibre to the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre, thereby creating a monopoly in the local industry. This came following regulations which were imposed by the government, prohibiting the farmers from trading outside the country.
However, the regulations were later amended in 2019 allowing the farmers to once again trade from anywhere they want, following a huge outcry from players in the industry who accused Mr Shi of, among others, dishonesty and giving poor financial returns for the farmers’ fibre.
Earlier this year, the government announced that payment of the farmers would be made, while Mr Shi would be dealt with at a later stage. The then Minister of Small Business Development, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane had shown that Mr Shi had acknowledged and signed the agreement in order for the payment vouchers to be processed at the Ministry of Finance. Mr Kabi on Tuesday this week said preparations are under way to level the playing field that would allow for the payment of the remaining wool and mohair farmers.