Farmers panic over dipping chemicals

Farmers panic over dipping chemicals

. . . as government makes frantic efforts to avert crisis

MASERU – GOVERNMENT is forking out an unbudgeted M2 million to avert a crisis in the wool and mohair industry after its fight with a South African broker led to a shortage of dipping medicines at a critical time, a senior official has said.
Farmers are panicking after South African firm BKB failed to supply dipping medicines for sheep and goats after its fallout with government.
In the past BKB, a broker, would sell wool and mohair on behalf of local farmers and collect a dipping levy used to purchase the medicines from South Africa.

Government fought hard to end the relationship and take over the collection of the dipping levy, leading to the near disaster that it is now scrambling to resolve.
The Principal Veterinary, Relebohile Mahloane, told thepost that the ministry is currently busy trying to secure medicine from South Africa. He said the government was forced to dip into the consolidated fund to secure money for the medicines.
“We have asked for quotations and put in orders,” Mahloane said.
“Unfortunately companies produce medicine according to the orders they have in hand, hence there are no readily available medicines,” he said, expressing hope that the medicines will be available before the dipping season ends in March.

Following the fallout between government and BKB, farmers could not sell their wool and mohair and consequently failed to pay any dipping levies, said the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LMWGA).
According to Mokoenehi Thinyane, the chairperson of LMWGA, the Ministry of Agriculture wrote to farmers last week asking them to submit financial records to ascertain that indeed the association had not collected levies from the farmers.
“This is despite the fact that we explained to the ministry that we do not have the dipping levy,” Thinyane said.
“The association did not keep that money,” said Thinyane.
“We did not even collect it because it was deducted directly from our cheques by the broker, BKB,” Thinyane said.

Thinyane said farmers used to get medicines directly from BKB before the shearing season and the firm would deduct the money from the sales of wool and mohair.

Currently, the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre is expected to deduct 38 cents per kilogramme of wool and M1 per mohair kilogramme.
The money should be submitted to the government, which in turn should use the funds to buy medicines for farmers, according to the new arrangement.

Last week, the government asked the Thaba Bosiu Wool Centre to submit the dipping levy that it has collected so far. During a press briefing last week Manama Letsie, the centre’s spokesperson, stated that a meeting with government officials had resolved that the levy must be religiously collected.

“The government will make all efforts to raise funds for the dipping levy but if there is still shortage the centre will have to contribute towards the dipping levy as well so that farmers do not find themselves in a chaotic situation,” Letsie said.
There is still an on-going investigation of fraud, with the government accusing the LWMGA and BKB of defrauding the government M15 million in dipping levies.

On Tuesday, wool and mohair trader Dr Mohlalefi Moteane, warned against entrusting government with the dipping levy.
He said in the past, the government used to control the levy after gazetting the tax in 1974 but misused the money resulting in farmers failing to dip their animals.

“It became a challenge because animals were not dipped on time, there were shortages of medicines even though farmers were paying more than enough,” said Moteane, a veterinarian by profession.
“The money was misused,” Moteane said.

He said in 2003 when, at a meeting in Tšehlanyane, the late minister Dr Rakoro Phororo, who was also a vet, decided that the dipping levy should be returned to the farmers.
“If you remember from 2000- 2003 in the parliament of Lesotho the government would be asked to subsidize farmers with money for dipping despite the fact that our money that we contributed was more than adequate, it was just misused,” Thinyane said.
Moteane added: “The farmers have done exceptionally well so far. They have managed to put anthrax under control. True, we still have to work hard to eradicate the disease but so far the farmers are doing well,” Moteane said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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