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Fruit production ‘a potential game changer’


Letuka Chafotsa

FRUIT production has the potential to bolster Lesotho’s economy and reduce the swelling unemployment and poverty in the long run, the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCED) Manager, Chaba Mokuku, has said.

In an interview with the Sunday Express last week, Mr Mokuku explained the PSCED’s three main components, which are improving the business environment, supporting economic diversification and project implementation support.

“In supporting economic diversification, component two under the second phase of the PSCED, we are supporting investment promotion and increasing linkages to the local economy,” Mr Mokuku said.

“We also support the tourism sector as well as assisting in expanding the commercial horticulture sector in which fruit production has clearly shown potential as a major export product.”

In expanding the commercial horticulture sector, as part of the economic diversification drive, Mr Mokuku said they have applied lessons learnt from the first phase of the horticulture piloting processes to transform strategic areas in Lesotho into major producers and exporters of early variety tree crops. This was achieved by demonstrating that commercial deciduous fruit production is competitive and sustainable.

“Having seen that we facilitate the shift from the reliance on maize as the main source of income to a more diversified cropping structure, we developed a competitive value chain for tree crops including sales of fresh produce in local and exports markets, juicing, canning and drying facilities for products as well as processing based on derivatives from tree crops,” he said.

“Our country has the advantage of a conducive climate, abundant water and reasonably permissive altitude for fruit production, so we can become the top fruit supplier for both the local and global markets.”

Mr Mokuku also stated that Lesotho’s fruits are of higher quality than those from South Africa, adding that local produce can reach the market two to three weeks earlier than from our neighbour thus giving the Mountain Kingdom a competitive advantage.

However, he said, despite the good prospects of developing commercial horticulture, the major challenge is banks’ reluctance to finance farmers for fruits production since it takes more time to repay the loans.

“We still have the challenge of commercial banks’ limited participation in fruit production financing and the harsh terms and conditions for obtaining individual loans have penalised many smallholder farmers and traders, but we are coming up with mechanisms to deal with this problem,” he said.

Mr Mokuku also stated that nowadays many developing countries are shifting from subsistence farming to the promotion of new export-oriented crops and Lesotho is no exception as shown by the expansion in commercial horticulture.

“The shift from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture, to production for the world market, has led to the division of tasks and specialisations in agriculture,” added Mr Mokuku.

“So if the country meets the financing challenge, the sky would be the limit in fruit production. The other key stakeholder we are in the process of dialogues with is insurance companies with which we seek to work out a mechanism for crop protection.

“We can already see progress in our negotiations and in a matter of time this country will be a leader in fruit production which will help in reducing the swelling poverty.”

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