Govt to settle M8 million farmers’ debt
THE government will tomorrow resume paying farmers who are still owed a combined M8 million for supplying grain to the state.
Addressing journalists in Maseru over the weekend, the Minister in Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, said the government had secured funds to settle the arrears for the grain procured as part of the government’s emergency relief plan to cushion vulnerable groups that had been affected by the recurrent droughts and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The relief plan was launched by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in December 2020.
The procurement was done by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) in collaboration with the Food Management Unit, which both fall under the Prime Minister’s Office.
According to the DMA, the government procured a total of 679, 85 metric tonnes of maize and 484, 20 metric tonnes of beans from local farmers from this year’s summer harvest.
A 50 kilogramme bag of beans was bought for M1150 while a 50kg bag of maize cost M200 under the project. The grain was then packaged and donated to vulnerable villagers countrywide.
However, the initiative did not go as smoothly as expected as many farmers who supplied the government expressed dissatisfaction at the crippling payment delays.
The farmers said they were initially promised payments within two weeks of delivering their grain to the government. However, they said they had not been paid since April 2021.
As a result, the farmers said they would not be able to plant any crops during this year’s summer cropping season due to financial constraints.
The DMA has said the government currently owes an estimated M8 million to an undisclosed number of farmers.
Speaking on the issue over the weekend, Mr Mosenene said the “regrettable delay” in paying the farmers was caused by the fact that the government had procured far more grain than it was capable of paying for at the time.
He said they had since obtained more funds and they would start clearing the arrears from tomorrow onwards.
“The government will start paying the remaining farmers who supplied it with grains with effect from Monday (tomorrow),” Mr Mosenene said.
“After settling that debt, the government will resume the procurement of maize and beans with the aim of supporting vulnerable groups, while also providing local farmers with a market for their produce.
“The government’s food relief response is informed by the Lesotho Vulnerable Assessment Committee (LVAC) which annually supplies statistics of vulnerable people in the country.
“The LVAC also recommends the course of action to be taken for improvement of food security and household nutrition,” Mr Mosenene added.
In another development, Mr Mosenene announced that the DMA was now independent from his ministry as of 1 August 2021. He said this was done to enhance its efficiency in responding to disasters.
He said the independence also means DMA will have its own budget allocation from treasury as opposed to being funded by his ministry.
Speaking at the same press conference, the DMA’s deputy CEO, Caroline Mahosi, echoed Mr Mosenene’s sentiments, saying the move would improve the country’s response to disasters.
The DMA would now be proactive instead of simply being reactive to disasters, Ms Mahosi said.