Farmers blast Meraka Lesotho

Farmers blast Meraka Lesotho

MASERU – CATTLE farmers and butcheries are not happy with Meraka Lesotho.
Their anger is still palpable months after the government banned beef imports and announced that Meraka Lesotho was to be the only licenced slaughter house.
That’s according to the howls of complaints from farmers who attended last Thursday’s meeting between officials from the Meraka Lesotho, meat traders and other stakeholders. The meeting was organised by the Development for Peace Education (DPE), a lobby group.

The farmers said they are not happy that Meraka Lesotho is now a monopoly in the wholesale beef market.
They also complained that Meraka is competing with them in the market because it is also aggressively pushing for contracts to supply meat to government departments like the army.
They said Meraka Lesotho is also pinching their retail market.

Some even said when they take animals for slaughter, the abattoir takes away some organs like the liver, saying they were not good for human consumption because the slaughtered beast was sick.
Teboho Posholi of Cool Foods said importing a live animal is a bit steep for farmers compared to importing carcasses, which they are not allowed to do.
“This makes the meat we sell more expensive as our costs for importing live animals are also high,” Posholi said.
He however said he believes that the DPE’s intervention might help bring solutions.
“The platform was open for all relevant stakeholders.

It means we will end up finding a solution to our challenges,” he said.
Mosito Khethisa, chief executive of Meraka Lesotho, said he has always been willing to work cordially with farmers.
But he noted that this is difficult because some of them are pushing interests of South African businesses affected by Lesotho’s ban on meat imports.
“They say my prices are high but my prices are very competitive and reasonable in the market,” Khethisa said.

“They just do not want to understand that I also incur costs, which is not the case for the South African businesses,” he said.
He said he has hires trucks to fetch the animals, pay border tax and employ people to offload the animals.
“The businesses in South Africa do not have these costs hence they will sell the meat at a cheaper price,” Khethisa said.
He further said on the issue of cutting some organs it is only done when veterinary doctors have declared them unfit for human consumption.
“It is usually on organs like the liver and not the whole intestines,” he said.

He said there is no law that prohibits him from tendering, just like bakeries are not barred from seeking contracts to supply bread, or Maluti Brewery to supply drinks.
“However, I did tell them that we can sit down and discuss the issue. I am more than willing to bow out of small tenders.”
“They can have those and I can have the big ones and it becomes a win-win situation for everyone.”
He said the criticism against Meraka is unfair.

“I am even starting to think it is personal because they do not come to me so that we can solve these issues.”
“Some of them (issues) are not even our fault.”
Meanwhile, Tlaba Mochebelele of Young Lesotho Farmers Association said the ban of red meat imports will help them grow their businesses.

“This ban means that even those who did not consider us are now giving us a chance. We are slowly penetrating the markets too,” Mochebelele said.
He said he only wished that government had informed and trained farmers on best practices so they make the most of the opportunity.
“Climate change does not make things easy for us because we are still far behind in terms of agricultural technology, especially for livestock,” he said.
“Even the type of animal food that our animals get is not modern, like the ones used by farmers in other countries. We are still dependent on pastures and they are not sufficient.”
He said suitable feed for animals is expensive and that makes it hard for farmers to sustain their animals.

Teboho Motšephe of Meat and Deli at Sakeng in Khubetsoana and General Secretary of Meat Traders Association said there are still challenges facing the industry but there is no point in fighting Meraka Lesotho.

“Wanting to know the owner of Meraka does not help us grow our businesses. However, if the focus is on fighting the system that inhibits our businesses to grow like that of Meraka selling to individuals, then it is worth fighting,” Motšephe said.

He further explained that since the DPE’s mediation Meraka has turned away individual buyers.
“That means with time we will gain more customers which were previously served by Meraka.”

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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