Stone Shi fires back

Stone Shi fires back

MASERU – CONTROVERSIAL Chinese businessman, Stone Shi, has come out guns blazing.
Shi claims people sabotaging government policies on wool and mohair trade are threatening his enterprise.
Shi, accused by some of destroying trade between local wool and mohair farmers and a South African based broker BKB, was addressing a parliament committee last week.
The parliamentary interim committee was set up following a motion by Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing for parliament to probe corporate malfeasance in the wool and mohair industry.
Shi said on the November 13 last year, his shipping agents told him that someone had threatened to burn his wool consignment.
“Everybody knows who is threatening me,” Shi said.
He claimed that he was persuaded by some Basotho to come and invest in the country.
“They invited me here,” he said. “Farmers are lying stupidly and they should make very clever lies,” he said.

Shi is the director of Maseru Dawning (Pty) Ltd, the only company with a government licence to buy and export Lesotho’s wool and mohair.
Shi told the committee that farmers own 75 percent of shares in the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre, with the remaining 25 percent held by Maseru Dawning as the technical partner in venture.
He said the center started the brokerage business in 2017 with 800 bales of wool that were sold through negotiated deals with buyers in China, which is the main consumer of raw wool and other fibres in the world.
After Shi’s grilling, the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre’s manager Mabilikoe Mosenye, said the pilot was jointly undertaken by farmers from Mafeteng, Quthing and Butha-Buthe under the supervision of the Ministry of Small Businesses Development and other relevant departments.

Mosenye said their auctions are hosted online through an e-commerce trade tool that is already embraced across the globe by international trade businesses and buyers of commodities across the world.
He said for the year 2018/19, Lesotho Wool Center has received 24 952 bales that can be converted to 3 820.93 tons of greasy wool.
He said for mohair they received 2 279 bales and 1 857 bags that can be converted to 409.94 tons.
“Amongst a wide range of other achievements, the Lesotho Wool Center has auctioned all wool and mohair bales and thus far managed to ship all 409.94 tons of mohair and at least 22 492 bales wool,” Mosenye said.

He said they are left with 2 100 bales of wool in store and these are the bales that were returned due to a blockade announced by the government of South Africa following the reported outbreak of anthrax in some parts of Maseru.
He said the stock was already auctioned and the buyers were awaiting the delivery at the receiving port.
He said Lesotho Wool Center hosted 10 auctions online from 22 November 2018, with the last auction being held on 7 March this year.
He said of the 47 813 famers countrywide only “4 090 are not yet paid due to dormant bank accounts, old account numbers that fail in the payment system, omitted farmers’ names from the shed and spelling errors in the names that result to bank queries”.

Mosenye said M318.3 million has been paid to farmers so far across the country, adding that every farmer should have received their payments by July 10.
He said the total amount of dipping levy collected by Lesotho wool center for year 2017/18 was M48 217.
He said in this year they collected M12 million of dipping levy, “which is a very positive improvement as compared to our pilot year”.
He said wool and mohair brought to the center attracted some of the best prices in the season.
“In the top classes such as AH and AF where we managed to sell for as high as US$ 13.30 (about M186.20) and US$13.20 (about M184.20) respectively, selling above the nearest producer, Australia at just US413.05 per kilogramme,” he said.

He said the sale of wool and mohair to international buyers has earned Lesotho over US$33.0 million (about M462 million) in foreign currency.
This, he said, was unlike in the past when farmers only received their payments after South African brokers had converted the dollars into the local currency.
Job creation has been another benefit, he said.
The Lesotho Wool Center has employed 33 graduates, 83 unskilled labourers comprising about 20 fulltime staff.
He said their biggest challenge has been the preparation and finalisation of payments to farmers and this has been “one of the most painful exercises” in their operations since they started the work.
He said another challenge was on shipments which experienced numerous delays due to the industrial strikes, to technical export-import barriers which saw some of the containers being returned from the Maseru Bridge in March this year.

Mosenye said when 22 of their containers were detained in South Africa, they lost over M500 000 plus other logistical costs which they cannot claim from anyone.
Spokesman of the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre, Manama Letsie, alleged political interference in the shipment process.
He said when they were supposed to ship 12 containers on a Saturday, they received information that their containers could not cross the border because officials did not trust their signatures.
He said later they were told “we were not supposed to ship after 5 p.m.”.
He said they were called to the border gate where they found six people, including Teboho Sekata, a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MP, Serialong Qoo, spokesman for Democratic Congress (DC), an independent vet Dr Mohlalefi Moteane, a DC candidate for Lithabaneng constituency Motumi Ralejoe and Montoeli Masoetsa, spokesman for the All Basotho Convention.
Some of these personalities are known for opposing the government policy on wool and mohair, he said.

“They were there commanding officers not to allow trucks to go through because in the container is not wool but something smuggled,” Letsie said.
He accused Qoo and Sekata of leading the sabotage efforts.
Letsie further told the committee that a proposal invited Shi to come to Lesotho and to help so that farmers stop exporting to South Africa.
He said Shi came for a feasibility study and found out that quality of Lesotho wool is lower than in Australia.
He said he also noticed the price difference.

Letsie said Shi has 25 outlets dealing with the same business in China and Australia.
He also said in most cases, they had to engage directly with the farmers as the farmers’ association had abandoned its job.
Letsie told the committee that Mokoenehi Thinyane, chairman of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) was abandoning terms of their initial agreement.
He said in 2017, they suspected that unfair business practices were used to cause confusion among Basotho and this was after competition began to grow.
He said BKB sells before test results and “that is why they manage to cheat the farmers and they even manipulate the prices”.
He said the challenge with Lesotho is that it is small “so some crucial cases do not make it to the international courts”.
On the construction of the centre, Letsie said their expectation was that all partners would contribute towards building a centre that would help make a profit for their wool and mohair products.
But farmers did not have enough money.

He said the whole building cost about M60 million, but farmers only contributed M4 million and Shi paid the rest.
Letsie attributed ongoing conflicts to greediness.
“BKB was doing all they can to stop or sabotage the good government policy,” Letsie said.
He argued that two members from the farmers’ association were bribed with M4 million each by BKB in 2017.
He said their understanding of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane position is that farmers are free to sell their product anywhere they want, but the government would still have to monitor the process.

Nkheli Liphoto

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