Bean deal for Lesotho farmers

Bean deal for Lesotho farmers

MASERU-A local food packaging company has come to the rescue of farmers who were struggling to get a reliable market for their beans because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Tasty Food Packers has sealed a deal to buy beans from local farmers.
In the past two years, farmers were supplying beans to the World Food Programme (WFP)’s school feeding programme.
But this year’s harvest came after schools closed in March due to Covid-19. 
As such hundreds of farmers found themselves stuck with their harvest.
Some, like ’Mapula Makara, started selling to individuals who bought small quantities.

“As a farmer I am now relieved that there is a market for my produce, as through LENAFU we were able to meet with a local food packer who is willing to buy from us,” Makara said.
“The problem that we had in the past months of not knowing what to do with our sugar beans is now in the past.”

“What is left is for us to work hard and increase our production in the next season,” Makara said.
“At the end of the day we should all benefit, avoid having one person benefit a lot more than the other.”

That misery ended last week when farmers negotiated with Tasty Food Packers to buy their beans.

Khotso Lepheane, the Programmes Manager of the Lesotho National Farmers’ Association (LENAFU), described the agreement as “a milestone”.
He said the deal comes at a time when most farmers were struggling to sell their beans.

“Some were even selling them for very little just so that they could get money. With this new market not only will farmers have a buyer for their produce but they will also be selling them at an acceptable price,” Lepheane said.

Lepheane said another crucial aspect of the meeting was about knowing the quantities of beans available in the country.
“We are still expecting numbers from farmers across the country. So far we know that we have over 800 bags of 50 kilograms of beans, we expect this number to rise significantly when all numbers are in,” Lepheane said.

The agreed price, he said, was that the packer would pay M16 per kilogram.
“The M16 is the selling price floor. No farmer should go below that. Inconsistency in prices is not good for our industry hence we had to nip it in the bud before it has significant damage,” Lepheane said.
“As farmers, at this point we are satisfied and determined to increase our produce.”

Lepheane also applauded the government’s recent decision to buy maize and beans from farmers.  
“We hope that when time comes for implementation farmers will be notified so that they can take their produce to designated areas of sale on specific dates,” Lepheana said.
He said failure to consult and communicate properly with farmers can taint the whole initiative.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement needs clear policy guideline for implementation otherwise only the few with connections will end up benefiting.”

Daniel Chakela, a farmer in Leribe, said they are grateful for this opportunity as they still have a lot of beans in storage.
“Some company bought a hundred and eighty bags weighing fifty kilograms of beans but only 18 farmers benefitted. Hundreds more are still left out, so this new market will relieve farmers of market related stress and enable them to focus on production,” Chakela said.

Chakela added that the loss of the WFP market had left them stranded as they had tried to get into commercial farming and for the past  two years they were seeing significant growth amongst farmers.

’Matseleng Keele, Officer at Tasty Food Packers, told thepost that indeed they have opened their doors to bean farmers to supply them with produce.
She said this is the beginning of a long journey ahead.
“We are looking for a lot of beans and specifically first grade sugar beans.

We are asking bean farmers with stock to come see us,” Keele said.
She added that they are already receiving beans from farmers.  “They are allowed to bring their produce to Maputsoe, or organise other farmers to keep them at a certain storage facility and we can come there,” Keele said.
“Individuals with at least hundred bags will be met halfway in terms of transport.”

She said they are happy with the quality of beans they have been receiving.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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