Pay farmers on time

Pay farmers on time

SACKED Minister of Social Development, ’Matebatso Doti, says she regrets voting for the Agricultural Marketing Products Regulations of 2018 in Parliament.
The controversial regulations were last month declared null and void by High Court judge Justice Mokhesi in a stunning reversal of the government’s policy.
We are not surprised that the coalition government has since appealed the judgment. Key ministers within the government have been vocal in defending the new regulations.
The ministers have vowed to press forward with the regulations, setting themselves on a collision course with Lesotho’s farmers.

The farmers argue the regulations, which bar farmers from exporting their wool and mohair to South Africa, are draconian and impinge on their rights to sell wool and mohair to a market of their choice.
Doti, who was fired from the government in February after she threw her weight behind Professor Nqosa Mahao, last weekend said she feels for farmers who have received a raw deal as a result of the regulations.
Small Business Minister Chalane Phori has however accused the former minister of chickening out when the vote was about to take place in Parliament.

While we would not like to be drawn into any mudslinging match as to who is telling the truth, it is patently clear that the wool and mohair issue will dominate our domestic politics for years to come.
In fact, it could become one of the biggest election issues at the next polls. That is because the issue directly affects ordinary people’s lives.
The wool and mohair industry has over the past four decades provided a constant income for rural communities. It has been their lifeline in times of need.

Under the new regulations that came into force last year, the farmers cannot sell their wool and mohair to South African brokers. Instead, they are being forced to sell to the Wool Centre in Thaba-Bosiu.
The problem is that they have not been paid, and they are incensed.
The Thabane-led coalition government appears to have gone out of its way to back a Chinese national, Stone Shi, against their own people.
The government has been on the back-foot in trying to justify why farmers should not be allowed to sell to BKB in the Eastern Cape.

We are not surprised that Thabane was at pains to apologize to wool and mohair farmers during his political rally last weekend. Thabane fully understands the wider political implications of antagonizing a key constituency.
We do not think that the ordinary Mosotho farmer is bothered as to who is pushing the new regulations. The farmers would happily comply with the regulations if they thought they would receive a fair value for their wool and mohair and that they would be paid on time.

None of this has happened under the Stone Shi deal.
That is why they feel their own government has sold them a dummy.
It is therefore critical that while the government is appealing the High Court judgment, it puts in place a mechanism to ensure the farmers are paid on time and that they get full value for their wool. Any other arrangement would leave a bitter taste in the mouths of farmers.

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