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Thousands of farmers owed for 2018 wool and mohair- LNWMGA

Bereng Mpaki

OVER 6000 wool and mohair farmers are still to be paid for fabric they sold through broker Maseru Dawning Trading as far back as 2018, the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) has said.

Although the association has not completed recording the numbers of unpaid farmers, it said last year there were over 6 000 farmers who had not been paid for their 2018 fabric.

The broker, Maseru Dawning Trading however, said only 100 farmers were yet to be paid. He also accused the LNWMGA of cheating him into paying more money to some farmers to the detriment of others.

For the first time in 40 years, in 2018 farmers were forced to trade fibre through local broker, Maseru Dawning Trading, which is operated by businessman, Stone Shi. This was after the government introduced the Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair) regulations of 2018, which made mandatory for all fabric to be auctioned locally.

The fibre trading policy however, did not go down well with the farmers who accused the government of promoting a monopoly by licensing only one broker.

The farmers also accused the broker of delaying their payments while they also said that their earnings had been significantly reduced as compared to when they used to sell it through South African companies, among them BKB and OVK.

Following fierce resistance from the farmers which included a series of demonstrations against the government, the controversial regulations were in 2019 amended to allow farmers to trade with brokers of their choice.

Several local brokers have since been licensed to auction farmers’ fibre.

LNWMGA chairperson, Mokuinihi Thinyane, told the Business Journal on Tuesday that many farmers were still awaiting their 2018 and 2019 shearing season payments.

“We are currently compiling the figures of unpaid farmers but the last time we did, there were over 6000 farmers who were yet to be paid for the 2018 and 2019 seasons,” Mr Thinyane said.

Mr Thinyane said many farmers were starving as a result of the payment delays. He suspects Maseru Dawning Trading is broke.

“We suspect that he is broke mainly because he sometimes claims to have processed payments for farmers yet they find no money in their bank accounts when they check,” Mr Thinyane said.

Meanwhile, Mr Thinyane said despite having since resumed to engaging brokers of their choice, the farmers were still encountering challenges in trading their fibre outside the country due to lack of veterinary clearances from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We have experienced major setbacks in obtaining veterinary clearances from the government for fibre that is currently stuck in Port Elizabeth.

“The government has now established a task team that will look into the matter. We believe the task team will also look into the issue of delayed payments,” Mr Thinyane said.

Asked why they have not paid 2018 proceeds, Mr Shi said the company had paid over 51 000 farmers while only 100 farmers were yet to be paid.

“We have paid more than 51 000 farmers, now there are less than 100 farmers who are claiming not to have received their payments. We are working on the issue. Some farmers’ claims are genuine and we pay them once we have confirmed they have not been paid but others are false claims,” Mr Shi said.

He also accused the LNWMGA of falsifying information leading to the over payment of some farmers.

“The LNWMGA has also cheated us on the documents that they gave us. The documents led us to overpay some farmers about M15 million. They filed false information which led some farmers receiving much more that what they deserved to the detriment of others. We have the documents to prove this,” Mr Shi said.

For his part, Maluti Wool and Mohair Centre’s (MWMC) managing director, David Telford, admitted that some farmers were yet to be paid for their 2019 production.

He attributed the delays to the farmers’ dormant bank accounts “coupled with hiccups with our payment system”, which they were in the process of fixing.

He said they handled M39 million worth of farmers’ mohair for 2019 season and out of that about M1 million is yet to be remitted to the farmers.

“We are currently setting up our own payment system, which means we will never be dependent on anybody to process payment of farmers going forward,” Mr Telford said.

 

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