AS part of initiatives towards building capacity in the implementation of international food safety standards, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing (MTICM) recently held a four-week course in which 25 people were trained.
The workshop, which ended on Thursday, equipped the participants with skills to inspect and analyse food quality, which are key global requirements for food exportation.
It was supported by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), which is under the World Trade Organisation.
Participants to the workshop included officials from the MTICM, Ministry of Agriculture and Food security, Greenhouse beneficiaries and individual farmers from the fruit and vegetable sectors. They received training in quality standards, containers, packaging requirements, marking requirements, sampling procedures, methods of inspection and chemical treatment in accordance with international standards.
In a speech read on his behalf by MTICM Chief Standards Officer Makara Ntjoka, MTICM Principal Secretary, Lekhooe Makhate, said the training would qualify the trainees for future posts which government will create in its endeavour to raise the standards of home-produced foodstuffs.
“It is befitting that you are pioneers of food safety, traceability and inspection in the fruit and vegetable sector in Lesotho, and that when the time is ripe, the government of Lesotho will create a Lesotho Good Agricultural Practice (LES GAP), an endeavour to which you will accept when you are called to participate in,” Mr Makhate said.
He added that there was a need for Lesotho and South Africa to forge an agreement to put in place recommendations for minimum standards for exports in the fruit and fresh vegetable sector.
EIF Project Manager Mahlape Qoane said the training would fully accomplish its purpose when local products begin to infiltrate international markets, especially such products as mushrooms whose cultivation has received a lot of attention from Chinese experts.
“We are looking forward to a time when Lesotho will establish a market centre where fresh produce meant for retail is sold after employing this product testing hub which is a requirement for international trade,” said Ms Qoane.
“We want the food to qualify for both domestic and international consumption and also have the products certified here at home.
“Through the integrated programme, which also involved the input of Chinese experts, the Masianokeng mushroom plant has evolved so much that we now have mushroom farmers in all the country’s 10 districts and, hopefully, our food will soon be recognised beyond Lesotho.”
On his part, the training facilitator, Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB), Francois Smit, urged the participants to share the skills they acquired in order to make a significant contribution as the country could no longer continue to rely on imports.