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Dairy farmers want law abolished

Billy Ntaote


MASERU — Troubled dairy farmers who have been at odds with the Lesotho National Dairy Board are up in arms against Ministry of Agriculture for alleged repeated failure to address their grievances.

The Maapara-Kobo dairy farmers association Chairman Tseliso Tšenoli said the association has been asking the ministry to address the challenges facing dairy farmers over the years but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Tšenoli told the Sunday Express that when Agriculture Minister Litšoane Litšoane and his Principal Secretary Nchemo Maile assumed office last year, they pledged to resolve their grievances but up to now there is no evidence of change.

“We now want this LNDB board to go and we want the act repealed. The Minister and his Principal Secretary know the problems faced by this industry but are not doing anything about this issue,” he said.

Among other grievances the association wants legislation that established the Lesotho national dairy board (LNDB) to be repealed and a new Act be put in place which Tšenoli insists should include input from dairy farmers’ associations.

Tšenoli is referring to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act No 246 of 1991.

Tšenoli says the associations’ major complaint has always been “we cannot engage into commercial dairy farming for as long as the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) and the Lesotho Dairy Producers (LDP) insist on the existing marketing framework.”

He claims on a number of occasions “we have suffered ill-treatment from the institutions.”

He said the Goboto forensic and investigative accounting report highlighted indigenous dairy farmers’ constraints, which are precipitated by the institutional marketing framework as “we had earlier indicated that we were vying for its repeal.”

The Goboto audit report was instituted in 2010 when a South African firm with that name was hired to audit the sector.

“We want the repeal of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act No 246 of 1991 for it was by this Act that the LNDB was established,” he said.

According to Tšenoli, among the range of problems that dairy farmers are still encountering includes irregular payments to dairy farmers.

“Farmers continue to receive M3 per litre of milk tendered to the LDP. There is no one to talk to in order to redress this situation and this void is by design of the LNDB,” he fumed.

He charged the LNDB is empowered by the Act to intervene in so far as the marketing constraints are concerned and yet have connived over this irregularity for almost a quarter of a century.

Tšenoli said dairy farmers are not against people within the corrupt system perpetrated by the marketing institution framework but they are against the corrupt system itself hence their explicit request for a repeal of the legislation.

He said further to the request of the repeal of the said act “we implore those in positions of power to hold the devastating hand of the marketing institution framework to the farmers in order for a development and investment friendly environment to come into being.”

Tšenoli the investment climate in the sector can never be conducive so long as the existing marketing institutional framework is in place.

He told the Sunday Express as the dairy farmers’ plight remains unanswered some farmers have already opted out of the industry.

“The trajectory is not conducive for income generation to which we all aspire,” Tšenoli said.

He also lamented what he called the “skewed sectoral distribution of the Lesotho National Development Corporation equity portfolio in favour of textiles and other industry against the agro industry.”

“We believe this development will soon be redressed, especially in the light of the widely talked about food security policy,” Tšenoli said.

He accused the agriculture minister of failure to put in place a new dairy board saying he did not exercise his ministerial powers over the board.

“On arrival minister said he sets up a task force to rectify problems, when he had the powers to appoint a new board of the LNDB, till today he has not changed it.

“The executive secretary is adamant he would keep the prices low and we can’t do anything to him as the Minister listens to him,” alleged Tšenoli.

He said dairy farmers, through their umbrella organisation have come up with a proposal of the structure they aspire to see in the dairy industry.

“We’d request the replacement bill or Act to take on board such an envisaged structure together with the farmers’ vision,” he said.

Tšenoli said the minister’s taskforce has since not been functional as it has only held a single meeting of all the stakeholders so far.

Tšenoli said a recent dairy farmers report by the United Nations recommended the removal of those institutions for Lesotho’s dairy farming to prosper.

He said farmers still want to know why the dairy products levy collected at the boarders is not being used to develop Basotho dairy farmers.

“Where is this levy money going since we do not see any developments being made in this industry?” Tšenoli asked.

When contacted for a comment the LNDB Executive Director Selematsela Montši said Tšenoli was a fraud and the LNDB would soon expose him.

Montši could not be drawn to comment further on allegations leveled against the LNDB and demands to have its establishing Act abolished saying he would soon furnish the Sunday Express with a detailed true account rebutting Tšenoli’s allegations.

Maile who is also the chairman of the LNDB said Tšenoli’s claims were unfounded and he has been causing trouble in the ministry whenever a new minister comes into office.

Maile could not comment further as he was held up in meetings. He promised to respond to Tšenoli’s allegations later.

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