MINISTER of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo, has urged farmers to fully utilise a M70 million government subsidy to produce crops to feed the nation in the 2018/19 summer cropping season which gets underway this month.
Mr Molapo also revealed that the government had also set aside a further M10 million for the construction of irrigation systems for use in the dry seasons.
Mr Molapo said this at a recent media briefing to announce the government’s support for local farmers.
He said the government will continue to offer financial and other support to farmers to enable them to meet the country’s food requirements.
“As we enter into the summer cropping season, the government will continue to subsidise farmers’ expensive essentials needs such as fertilisers, seeds and pesticides with a 50 percent subsidy and this will be provided to all farmers, either working as individuals or in groups,” Mr Molapo said.
“M70 million will be spent to buy those necessities with part of it to be used to buy harvesting machines for the wheat crop which is ready for harvest. The northern region (Qacha’s Nek, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng) will access these essentials at the government storage in Mohale’s Hoek and the southern region (Mokhotlong and Butha-Buthe) will get them in Butha-Buthe. Leribe, Thaba Tseka and Berea farmers will get them in Maputsoe and in Ha Foso which will also serve Maseru farmers.
“The government will further subsidise ploughing of fields to the tune of 50 percent to farmers who are covering at least 25 acres. For each acre, the farmers will pay M150 while the government will incur the other M150 as it costs M300 to plough an acre. Those who have machinery to plough should come to the offices so that we can draw up contracts for them to assist other farmers without machinery to plough fields. In areas where there are no people with machinery, farmers should visit the nearest office (of the Ministry of Agriculture) and ask for assistance,” he said.
He indicated that the ministry works closely with councillors and area chiefs as well as the police to ensure that subsidised seeds and fertilisers are used for their intended purposes and not resold for profit to South African farmers.
“Farming has been earmarked by the government as one of the key sectors which can end poverty. The aim is to plough as much land and so we are exploring every means to have as many people engaging in farming.
“Since we do not know what the weather has in store for us, we encourage farmers to use seeds which can hold moisture for a longer period as well as the 62131 fertiliser which can also maintain moisture. The two are those which we provide through the government subsidy.
Mr Molapo also said that the government is working tirelessly to create a market for locally produced crops and that includes maize and wheat being sold to Lesotho Flour Mills, while steps have been made to have local supermarkets purchase vegetables from local farmers as well.
“The government has made strides towards creating a market for locally produced vegetables. We started with ministries which have feeding schemes such as health, defence and education to buy from local farmers.
“There is also Lesotho Flour Mills which is supposed to buy maize and wheat from local farmers. Apart from that, the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane recently launched Ha Tikoe facility which will collect local fresh produce (vegetables) so that supermarkets operating in the country can buy vegetables there,” Mr Molapo said.