THE Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) is stuck with M30 million worth of wool and mohair after South Africa temporarily banned the importation of live animals and related products following an anthrax outbreak in Lesotho.
South Africa recently imposed the ban after the Veterinary Authority of Lesotho reported an outbreak of anthrax which began on May 12 and has so far killed 24 cattle.
Anthrax is caused by a type of bacteria called bacillus anthracis which can be found in the soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. Humans most commonly contract anthrax through contact with infected animals or animal products such as meat.
The disease, which has so far been reported in Ha-Tseka in Maseru, has also affected 24 people among them 11 children since it was first reported.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, LWC spokesperson Manama Letsie, said the ban has hit the wool centre hard as it is in the process of clearing its stock of wool and mohair in preparation for the next season’s auction of the produce.
Mr Letsie said due to the ban, the LWC is stuck with 19 shipping containers of fibre containing 2000 bales of wool and mohair worth M30 million.
“The ban has hit us hard as we are unable to ship the fibre that has already been bought by international buyers,” Mr Letsie said, adding the delay could negatively affected their relations with buyers going forward.
“We were also in the process of emptying our storage to prepare for next season’s sales but now we have to offload the fibre from the shipping containers back into the storage.”
Mr Letsie said they had no choice but wait until South Africa, which completely surrounds Lesotho, lifts the ban on the importation and transit through its ports of live animals and related products from Lesotho.
“We have no choice but to wait until South Africa has satisfied itself that the wool and mohair poses no anthrax threat to their animals.”
Mr Letsie however, said they were not happy with the decision to ban Lesotho’s fibre because it had been locally tested and certified free of anthrax and other diseases.
“First of all the fibre was sheared off the animals before the anthrax broke out. The wool was later tested by veterinary doctors of the Ministry of Agriculture who certified it free from any diseases.
“Besides, the wool centre is far from the Ha Tseka area that has been hit hard by the disease. Even when offload the wool from the shipping containers, the veterinary doctors will be present to ensure that it has the relevant certification.”
Mr Letsie however, assured farmers that despite the ban, they would still be paid for their wool and mohair delivered to the centre.
“Farmers’ payments will not be affected by the ban because we already resolved to pay them using our own funds as the wool centre. The wool centre will recoup those funds advanced as payment to the farmers once we have been paid by the international buyers of the fibre,” Mr Letsie said.
The anthrax outbreak has also affected the red meat industry in Lesotho. The Production and Health Manager of the Meraka abattoir, Thaane Hlalele, said they had suspended the purchase of cattle from local farmers until further notice to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Meraka abattoir is the only accredited slaughter house in Lesotho.
Mr Hlalele said the suspension would continue until the government assures them that measures are in place to contain and address the disease.