MASERU — The Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) denied allegations against the organisation and dismissed demands that the law establishing the body should be repealed. Selematsela Montši LNDB Executive Director told the Sunday Express this week that it had come to the board’s attention that the Maapara-Kobo Dairy Farmers’ Association chairperson Tšeliso Tšenoli, has been giving distorted information to the media about the board whenever there is a change of government.
Tšenoli had earlier alleged farmers wanted to see the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act No 246, 1991 that established the LNDB rescinded as farmers cannot engage in commercial dairy farming for as long as the dairy board and Lesotho Dairy Producers (LDP) are “influential in the existing marketing framework”.
“This is still a puzzle for us. However, we can only infer that he is doing this with the intention of gaining sympathy based on other people’s ignorance about facts surrounding the LNDB and its relationship with LDP,” Montši said. According to Montši in the past the LNDB refrained from responding to Tšenoli’s allegations that the dairy industry is suffocated by the LNDB and that there was need to “have its establishing legislation repealed”.
“We have in the past, almost for 10 years, refrained from responding because we strongly felt that his (Tšenoli) unfounded allegations would not be in the interest of our industry as well as in our professional ethics and code of conduct,” Monts’i said. Montši maintained that Tšenoli never communicated his grievances as he holds the views that talking to the LNDB is “tantamount to addressing the LDP and Denmar Dairy directly”.
Montši also claimed that Tšenoli was making allegations that farmers complained the LDP management and the dairy board are collaborating in corrupt activities, basing their arguments on findings of a forensic investigation sanctioned by former Finance Minister Timothy Thahane. Montši said Tšenoli “does not identify farmers who made the alleged complaints”. “As the LNDB we form an opinion that he is aware that his statements amount to character assassination, therefore he is hiding behind farmers that we do not know,” Monts’i said.
“He knows very well that issues that are raised in the mentioned audit and all misconceptions contained therein, were thoroughly addressed by LNDB,” Monts’i said. Montši also refuted Tšenoli’s claims that the board had barred dairy farmers from venturing into the milk processing business. “The LNDB does not issue licenses. The ministry of trade is responsible for providing such services. However, we have a legal mandate to ensure that farmers who want to venture into the business of this nature meet required hygienic standards,” Montši said.
“We also have moral obligation to advise small farmers not to venture into businesses that they may not be able to sustain it on their own. He knows very well that most of the dairy farmers in this country are small scale farmers.” Montši added that a typical example of a small Mosotho farmer is Tšenoli himself, “who at some point supplied Lesotho Dairy Products with a quantity of seven liters per day! Presently he has no milk to deliver to LDP.”
Montši scornfully said one only needs to look at the picture of Tšenoli’s “miserable cows displayed in his article of 25-31 August 2013 in the Sunday Express.” “How could such a small farmer dream of setting up a dairy plant?” Monts’i quipped. Montši also defended the LNDB, saying the board was not responsible for the failure of the dairy industry but many factors that needed the collective effort of dairy industry players “for a sustainable way forward”.
According to Montši, Tšenoli and his colleagues should be blamed for ignoring all attempts by the agriculture ministry to cooperate in “addressing the dairy industry challenges as they had their own hidden motives”. He said Tšenoli suggested raw milk prices could easily close the dairy industry in Lesotho adding it should be noted the dairy board “does not set prices as alleged by Tšenoli”.
“It should be carefully noted that the price of raw milk of M3.00 per litre that Tšenoli refers to is false as the correct price LDP pays to producers is M3.68, while the price in South Africa is R3.60,” Montši said. Commenting on the Gobodo forensic investigations and accounting report sanctioned by Thahane, Monts’i said on January 29, 2010 allegations made in the Gobodo report were addressed in a meeting where the Gobodo team, the finance ministry and the LNDB were all represented. He said the Gobodo accepted their misrepresentations and undertook to “accordingly amend the report and produce a corrected final version”.