The greens market comes to Maseru

The greens market comes to Maseru

MASERU- FOR years local farmers have complained of the dire lack of access to local markets. Some have said their products rot while supermarkets send them from pillar to post. The common refrain from supermarkets has always been that local farmers lack the capacity to sustain reliable and constant supply. It made no business sense to give a contract to a single farmer who can only supply cabbages or tomatoes for a few weeks in a year.

Now there is a solution for both the farmer and the supermarket. And it’s in the form a M23.6 million Market Centre officially opened in Tikoe Industrial Area last Friday. Farmers will supply the centre which will then sell the products to the local and international markets.

That means supermarkets will no longer have to deal with individual farmers but a group whose products would have been certified by experts.
Speaking at the official opening Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said the centre fits into the government’s economic policy to increase production and help farmers to have access to markets.

“The development is also a quest by government to accelerate job creation and poverty reduction in general, particularly among the youth and women,” Thabane said. He said that to ensure sustainability of the facility, the centre will be managed by a private company.  The Executive Director of International Trade Centre, Arancha González, said Lesotho has made enormous progress in economic and social issues. The ITC works in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to provide financial and technical assistance to build trade capacity in the Least Developed Countries (LDC) like Lesotho.

Gonzalez said in terms of economic transformation Lesotho is still at the beginning of a long journey that needs three pillars to succeed.
“Reforms are crucial for the transformation of the economy,” Gonzalez said. “It is important for the country to move towards value addition activities and to improve entrepreneurship by providing infrastructure for the private sector among other things, which is exactly what this project is about,” she said.

Gonzalez said it is evident that Basotho have understood and heeded the call to move towards commercial agriculture. “Much is yet to be done but the farmers’ mindset has changed and that in itself is an achievement.” She further said what is now left is for relevant stakeholders to use the facility effectively and ensure that the farmers’ produce gets to the buyers not only in local markets but also help them penetrate international markets.

“There are two market centres close by – one is in Bloemfontein and the other is in Johannesburg. However, it is our wish to see this centre become a reference point within the SADC region,” González said. She emphasized that collaboration from relevant stakeholders is essential to ensure that the best results are achieved.

Funding for the project came through the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), an initiative by the World Trade Organization.
The EIF Executive Director, Ratnakar Adhikari, said this journey started a long time ago when the EIF assisted Basotho farmers with greenhouses to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Adhikari said investing in agriculture is critical in diversifying the country’s exports and economy. He said the project will help create jobs across the value chain from farmer to agro processing. Adhikari urged the country to invest in standardisation of products in order to get maximum rewards from having this facility. “Standards are crucial especially for the international markets,” Adhikari said.

“It is our belief that these products have met local standards. What is left is to ensure that they also meet international standards,” he said.
’Maletsie Moshoeshoe, Sales and Produce Manager at Pick ‘n Pay, said the facility will go a long way in helping them have a single pick up point for produce.

“It is going to make it easier for us to collect produce unlike at present where we move to different locations in order to get them,” Moshoeshoe said.
She however, indicated that there is still room for improvement at the facility. “They need to scale up the machinery and work hard on standards to ensure quality because failure to do so will alienate retailers as standards are key in our business,” Moshoeshoe said.

She also said farmers should organise themselves and produce in large quantities to ensure constant supply to the centre and supermarkets.
’Matshabo Ngatane, a fresh produce farmer and member of Kholo Farming Cooperative, said the facility will help farmers access markets.
Ngatane said as farmers they need assistance in terms of securing greenhouses because of their expensive nature in order to produce in large quantities.

“My fear is that we will not be able to meet the demand. We as farmers might not be able to provide the quantities needed hence it is crucial for us to knock on doors and seek assistance in terms of greenhouses,” Ngatane said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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