LOCALLY produced fruits from the World Bank funded Likhothola Fruit Farmers Company in Mahobong will now carry the brand name Mountain Harvest after receiving international quality standards certification.
The brand was launched by Ministers ‘Mapalesa Mothokho (Agriculture and Food Security) and Joshua Setipa (Trade and Industry) at a recent Open Day event. The event was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, representatives of the World Bank as well as potential investors and retailers.
The farm produces peaches, apples, apricots and plums with support from the World Bank assisted – Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP).
This is the first time that locally produced fruits had a distinctive brand name, although the produce of the (PSCEDP) project has been on retail shelves since 2014. It is distributed through major local retailers like Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Fruit&Veg, Game as well as informal businesses.
Five other farms in Mahobong and Qoqolosing also received Global GAP certificates confirming they had also met international standards of quality produce.
The commercial horticulture project was established under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade with funding from the World Bank to grow the economy by revitalising the private sector and diversifying investment and business activity.
PSECDP assisted the farms with netting, irrigation systems and farming equipment, as well as inputs such as trees, agro chemicals, consultants as well as incentives for workers.
World Bank representative Zano Mutaruka said his organisation was “very proud to support this project”.
He said it was important for the country to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on textiles and “developing fruit production is a key step in that direction”.
For his part, Trade Minister Setipa said the certification would enable the fruits to be exported to the international market.
Deputy Prime Minister Metsing, who is also Member of Parliament for Mahobong constituency, stressed the need for more Basotho to venture into commercial horticulture “to generate employment and fight poverty”.
Likhothola Farm Manager ‘Mamakhoa Masupha told the Sunday Express that proceeds from the sales of the produce were saved in the company account for administrative expenses once the company was weaned from PSCEDP support.
Ms Masupha also said Likhothola Farm was a conglomerate created in 2012 by nine individual farmers operating a 10.7 hectare fruit farm. She said the farm employed 16 people from Mahobong.
The commercial horticulture project is looking to turn a 5, 000 square metre area into an Agricultural Development Zone after the project enabled the farmers to grow their annual income per hectare from M2 000 to M100 000.
Lesotho’s climate produces high quality fruits that ripen two to four weeks before South Africa giving the country a comparative advantage in local and international markets.
Value-added chains have already been identified to process dried fruit, juices and jams, as well as honey production from the bees attracted by the flowering trees.
The next step involves rolling out the project to farmers in the identified areas, maximising international market access and exports through global value chains, developing nurseries for constant supply of fruit trees and setting up a training centre.
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