EXASPERATED wool and mohair farmers are planning a massive demonstration against the government over its alleged failure to ensure that they are adequately and timeously paid for their produce.
The protest march is slated for 28 June when the farmers expect to march to the senate and national assembly where they will hand over petitions to both houses.
At the heart of the farmers’ gripe with the government are the controversial 2018 regulations which prohibited farmers from selling their wool and mohair from outside Lesotho as they had done for 44 years until 2018.
As they stand, the regulations compel the farmers to sell their produce via the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in Thaba Bosiu. The farmers prefer selling via South African brokers, BKB, saying they are assured of quick and higher payments than those from the LWC.
Despite the farmers’ vehement protests, the LWC enjoys the monopoly of exporting the wool and mohair on behalf of the farmers who have complained of delayed payment as well as lower prices for their produce compared to what they used to earn when it was sold from South Africa by that country’s brokers, BKB.
And ahead of the next wool and mohair auction scheduled for August 2019, some farmers have vowed not to shear their animals or take their mohair to LWC allegedly because they did not receive their dues from the last auction.
Part of the farmers’ petition addressed to national assembly speaker Sephiri Motanyane states that “most mohair growers never got a cent from their last year clip (produce) and as we submit this petition to the Honourable House the next auction at the Wool and Mohair Exchange is scheduled for the 13th and 14th of August 2019.
“It is for that reason that most wool and mohair growers decided not to shear their stock at the wool sheds (note that even those who sheared at the wool sheds have vowed not to send their fibre to Thaba-Bosiu anymore) as subjecting to that does not only compromise their expected and projected sales forecasts,” the petition which is dated 13 June 2019 states.
The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LWMGA) which is acting on behalf of the farmers, wants the government to suspend the 2018 regulations so that they can be allowed to sell their wool and mohair at an open and internationally recognised market.
“We write to the Honourable House of Parliament to humbly request for a suspension of legal Notice No. 65 of 2018 as those regulations prevent us from selling our fibre at an open and internationally recognised market with optimized returns.”
The farmers say they are fully aware of the setting up of an ad hoc parliamentary committee to further investigate issues surrounding the wool and mohair marketing saga but still they want the 2018 regulations suspended while the committee does its work.
“As much as we are aware that the establishment of an ad hoc committee on the wool and mohair industry is possibly done in good faith…our members and the 50 000 small-stock fibre growers are unable to wait for the findings of the ad hoc committee. Instead we request the Honourable House to suspend the regulations while the committee carries on with its set duties as moved by Honourable Mothetjoa Metsing.
“Honourable Speaker, it should be noted that our name as an association and our brokers’ name were tarnished during the process of implementing the regulations since last year. Therefore we believe that…the fibre that is to be actioned at the LWC must be with the brokered in Port Elizabeth before the 17th of July 2019.”
The LWMGA also alleges that some of its members have died of heart attack, depression and stroke due to the injustice they have suffered in the sale of their produce while other elders have been taken ill after they were “deprived of our only annual income”.
“Honourable Speaker, the situation on the ground is very disturbing where some of our members have died of heart attack, depression and stroke. We have also recorded cases of sickly elders due to depriving us of our only annual income,” the LWMGA petition further reads.