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Food prices slashed

 

Cost of maize meal, beans and peas to go down by 30 percent from next month

Pascalinah Kabi

The price of locally produced peas, beans and maize meal will go down by 30 percent from 1 June, bringing much-needed relief to consumers reeling from the ever-increasing cost of living.

The good news was announced on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing who said the government had set aside M162.7 million to subsidize the prices of the three staple foods between 1 June 2016 and May 2017.

This basically means if consumers are today paying M500 for a 50 kilogramme bag of maize meal, for instance, they would buy the same product for M350 between 1 June and May 2017, with government paying the balance on their behalf to the producers.

Mr Metsing said although development partners had come to Lesotho’s rescue after Prime Minister Dr Pakalitha Mosisili declared a state of food emergency in December 2015 at the peak of the El Niño-drought, which has seen food prices skyrocket over recent months, government decided to ensure the public continued to afford the most basic commodities hence the subsidy.

The deputy premier also said the subsidized products would bear a national flag sticker for easy identification, and cannot be exported during the duration of the government support. He further said government officials on Thursday morning met management of the country’s major producer of the products, Lesotho Flour Mills management, as well as representatives of some local small-scale manufacturers and packers of the products, to discuss the issue and agreed on the 30 percent subsidy model.

The subsidy ensures the companies do not suffer any losses as they would still sell their products at a competitive price but not at the expense of consumers.

“You will appreciate that food prices are continuing to increase due to inconsistent weather patterns. The most affected food prices are those of maize-meal.

“Based on this, government took a decision to intervene by setting aside a total of M162, 716, 671 to subside Basotho on locally manufactured maize meal, peas and beans,” Mr Metsing said.

“Like I said, this decision was taken after realising that climate change was having a negative impact on the lives of Basotho.

“The drought has not only left many of our people food-insecure because they have not been able to harvest anything, it has resulted in the increase of food, leaving even more people vulnerable.”

However, the DPM said the government was not going to fix prices for the three products because of their diverse sources.

Mr Metsing also spoke about the influence of South Africa on Lesotho.

“Government experts made us aware that there are so many things influencing price changes in our country,” he said.

“For instance, South African parliamentary proceedings have a huge bearing on local prices. People fail to understand that although they are exercising their democratic right, handling issues like that is having a negatively bearing on ordinary citizens. Now you will understand that democracy doesn’t come cheap, it’s actually expensive.

“The South African economy has a huge influence on Lesotho and if it slows down, Lesotho is automatically affected.”

South African opposition Members of Parliament have been causing mayhem in the august house as they refuse to allow President Jacob Zuma to address them, insisting he is not fit to hold office following the Public Protector’s findings that his family unduly benefitted from the R246million spent on security upgrades to his home in Nkandla.

The anticorruption body ordered that Mr Zuma reimburses part of the expense, which he agreed to do following bitter exchanges between the ruling ANC and opposition parties. The opposition later took the matter to the Constitutional Court which ruled Mr Zuma’s failure to repay the money violated the constitution, prompting the opposition’s raucous behavior in parliament and volatility of the rand.

With Lesotho’s loti pegged 1:1 to the South African rand, the instability has left the local economy heavily exposed, hence the ever-increasing prices of goods and services.

Lesotho Water Highlands Project

 

Mr Metsing also revealed that the government wants the Lesotho Water Highlands Project (LWHP) to increase the height of Katse Dam by one metre to increase its capacity for irrigation purposes.

Katse Dam is Africa’s second largest dam and is 185 metres high and 710 metres long.

“Right now, there are ongoing discussions within the Ministry of Water Affairs, discussing the issue of increasing the height of Katse Dam by one metre. Although these are closed government discussions, there are some people who strongly believe that increasing the dam by a metre will enable government to irrigate the whole country,” he said.

He said government had since accepted it needs more water for a good harvest no matter the weather conditions.

This, he said, would ensure every Mosotho is food-secure at all times.

“It is our biggest ambition to ensure that Basotho are food secure. We have come to a point where we admit that we need to work extremely hard to improve our farming practices,” Mr Metsing said.

“There was a time Lesotho was food-secure and we need to work hard to experience that again.”

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