Ministry bans import of bottled water

Ministry bans import of bottled water

MASERU-LESOTHO, famous for its pure water, is losing M69 million every year importing bottled water mainly from South Africa.
Now the government is putting a stop to that leakage.
This week, the government announced it was banning the import of bottled water. The ban became effective from Monday.

Tefo Mapesela, the Agriculture Minister, told thepost this week that it did not make sense “for Lesotho to sell water to South Africa then buy it back”.
Mapesela said the fact that Lesotho spends so much money on imported water might have made South Africans marvel at us “because we sell them water”.

He said he met the new Minister of Small Business Development, Thesele ’Maseribane, to stop the importation of bottled water.
“It has always been a foolish act to buy water outside the country yet the country produces water itself,” Mapesela said.
He said Lesotho is “blessed with clean organic water that is desired by the world”.

“We sell them water and then they bottle it and sell it back to us.”
He said when he was still the Minister of Trade in 2018, he had asked the Minister of Small Business Development to work together with him to solve the issue of water standards “but I was told the issue is partly finished”.
He said they then called a meeting with water bottling companies in Lesotho and tried to tip them on how to bottle water while still upholding principles of cleanliness among other things.

“We were doing that because water is more like food and needs extra care when one is preparing it,” he said.
He added that they also persuaded the companies to form an association that would allow easy monitoring on the side of the government.
He said what stopped them then was that the Ministry of Trade did not have regulations on water bottling “but now I have met the (Small Business Development) Minister and we have decided to use the marketing regulations to stop the importation”.

“It is now Basotho’s responsibility to be careful.”
The government has just removed the Marketing Department from the Ministry of Small Business Development back to the Ministry of Agriculture where it originally was.
In the government’s public notice, it is stated that water imports play a critical part in eroding the economy of Lesotho.
Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, imports most of its basic needs from its more prosperous neighbour.

The chairman of the Water Bottling Federation of Lesotho, Ntsie Maphathe, said they are excited about the announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture to ban the importation of bottled water.
For many years local water bottling companies for affirmative policies towards their product.
Bottlers were also fighting for access to markets.

They were unable to access retail markets due to stringent conditions set by retailers.
“We are very happy about this chance we are being given to prove ourselves,” Maphathe said.
“We firmly believe that this decision will be the backbone of growth in our businesses. We believe this will create more jobs in order to meet orders and to maintain quality of the product,” he said.

He said despite packaging water in line with the country’s public health and safety guidelines, they still battled to overcome certification issues.
“Each year tests are carried out to check that indeed our product is still of good quality and good for consumption but this was not enough for foreign retail stores that are controlled in South Africa,” Maphathe said.

He said they are hopeful that this is the beginning of a long working relationship.
“We are going to try by all means to meet demand without compromising the quality. Thus far, consumers are happy with our products and we want to keep it that way.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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