Roadshow spotlights food imports
A RECENTLY established movement of local entrepreneurs has called on government to ban the importation of some foodstuffs in 2017 to spur local production.
Home of Aggressive Entrepreneurs (HAE) Lesotho made the call on Friday to Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Selibe Mochoboroane during a district entrepreneurship roadshow in Maseru.
The ministry has been holding district roadshows with the aim of soliciting the views of small-scale entrepreneurs on the measures needed to empower them and increase their contribution to the country’s economy.
So far Mr Mochoboroane has visited seven of the country’s 10 districts with the roadshows set to continue in 2017.
During the Maseru roadshow, various representatives of small-scale entrepreneurs such as informal traders, farmers, cooperative societies, business development services providers, manufacturers, suppliers and contractors presented their views and explained the challenges they faced.
HAE Lesotho’s Ntsane Pheko said a radical approach was needed to spur local agricultural production given that close to 90 percent of food products consumed in Lesotho were imported.
“We are calling for a ban of some products in order to propel local production,” he said.
“Large retailers should also be compelled to support local producers.”
Mr Pheko said there were some underlying challenges entrepreneurs needed to overcome to become competitive.
“There is no patriotism and support among Basotho entrepreneurs. An entrepreneurship and leadership culture needs to be instilled at an early age for us to be competitive,” he said, adding a bureau of standards should be established “as a matter of urgency”.
In his response, Mr Mochoboroane agreed with Hae Lesotho’s viewpoint, saying ramping up food production was key to reducing the import bill.
“We need to emphasize on production because that is where our economic growth prospects lie,” the minister said, adding that Lesotho’s top seven imports were water, chicken products, mutton, beef, vegetables, fruits and eggs respectively.
“The amount of money leaving the country to pay for imports is shocking.”
Mr Mochoboroane said Lesotho spent about M68 million on importing bottled water per annum, “the very same water that was sold to South Africa”.
“Since we have Basotho who produce bottled water in the country, we need to explore ways of reducing water imports from South Africa,” he said.
“I have already pitched this idea to cabinet and have asked the government secretary (Lebohang Ramohlanka) to prepare an official memorandum to be presented to cabinet.”
The minister said he recently held a meeting with abattoir and butchery operators to emphasize government’s push to upscale production.
“I told them that we are starting right away. But they told me the private company running the national abattoir was failing to meet their requirements of various meat grades from top to low grade. If the meat was available, they would stop importing meat.
“I then asked the national abattoir operator what the problem was. They said most of the animals brought by local farmers were not well fed and therefore not suitable to be labelled grade A meat.
“So I told them to revive the feedlot facility to address that challenge, and that on 20 -21 December 2016 we are kick starting animal trade shows to which they can go and buy from local producers.”
Mr Mochoboroane said once the system was up and running, his ministry would stop issuing import permits for live animals.
On Friday morning the minister also met milling and packaging companies to underscore the need to promote local products.
“I told them that we are currently in the middle of a wheat harvesting season, and I want them to buy wheat from Basotho. They said they were very much willing to buy beans from Basotho. They also said there was a shortage of yellow maize which is used to produce chicken feed. So, I implore you to go and produce,” he added.