M3 million blown on potato imports

M3 million blown on potato imports

Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – M3 million.

That is the staggering amount Lesotho spends on potato imports every month.

But that is soon to change following a pledge by the Potato Association of Lesotho (PAL) to boost the production this year.

The PAL said this week they want to increase the capacity of farmers to grow enough to stop the imports.

To achieve that “dream”, the PAL has so far helped its members to secure 1 200 bags of seeds, 450 of Electra and 750 of Panamera for this growing season.

These are potato seeds that are highly demanded in the market “especially by the fast food establishments”.

Mahasela Nkoko, the association’s secretary, said they are expecting an intensive planting of potatoes especially in the highlands areas, Semonkong, Lesobeng, Mokhotlong and Butha-Buthe.

Nkoko said they have decided to produce a lot in the highlands because “we have learned that the environment is more conducive, the climate is preferable and the soil is organic”.

“The potatoes do not get affected by a lot of organisms and do not need the use of any chemicals,” Nkoko said.

He further said their aim is to reserve the highlands for seed production and increase capacity to produce seeds for Lesotho’s neighbours.

“We found out through research that the potatoes that we produce here can produce good seed due to their organic nature,” Nkoko said.

The LPA said their interest in potatoes peaked after they found out that the country spends more than M3 million on potato imports on a monthly basis.

“This indicated that Basotho consume a lot of potatoes and as producers we want to be able to serve them and export because globally they are number three in terms of the most consumed staple food,” he said.

Though the El Nino drought hit a lot of farmers last year, potato producers said they were able to produce more than 2 000 bags of potatoes each.

“This harvest season we are looking at producing at least 20 000 bags of potatoes,” he said.

He said they will seek to take advantage of the good rain season that is expected this year.

“Potatoes, though they are drought and cold resistant, perform better with rain,” Nkoko said.

The association has been able to secure its own packaging for this season onwards.

“We are already dealing with issues of traceability so that we can be able to trace produce to its farmer, in case something goes wrong,” he said.

“To achieve this we have issued a special code for each farmer even though the packaging will be the same.”

He further indicated that they are working with relevant ministries to deal with the issue of competitive pricing as they don’t want to end up being like other small, medium and micro enterprises that seemed to want to make profit from a single transaction.

Nkoko indicated that farmers are working hard and they are targeting to start producing for big companies like Letšeng Diamonds.

He said they believe they can do much to reduce poverty and unemployment through farming.

Nkoko said the variety they will produce will be of good quality and will remain fresh for a long period of time.

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