Dairy farmers speak with one voice

Dairy farmers speak with one voice

MASERU – FOR the first time in many years Lesotho dairy farmers are speaking with one voice.
Yesterday farmers from nine districts elected a national committee that will help them fight South African companies they say have crowded them out of the market.
Led by Lekhooa Pitso, the committee will work with the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) which has been at loggerheads with farmers. Some farmers have been complaining that the LNDC was established to regulate the industry but was now competing with them by selling milk products.

Abiel Mashale, the new chief executive of LNDB, has been working to bring farmers under one organisation.
The committee is a result of his efforts. Mashale said since his appointment late last year he has been working to unite the farmers.
Previously there were two factions – one linked to the LNDB and another connected to the Lesotho Dairy Products.
Mashale said the committee is the first of many steps toward developing the industry.

“There was a point when there were two national associations in this industry but we have now successfully formed one association which will be registered soon, which is representative of the whole country,” Mashale said.

He said Quthing district has some issues that need to be ironed out hence the district was not represented when the new inclusive committee was elected.
Mashale said the industry was unable to reach its full potential because farmers work as individuals.
He added that in some districts like Mohale’s Hoek, dairy facilities have been turned into homes.

“We should work hard and ensure that the person who has turned that facility into a home moves out and the facility is used for what it was intended for,” Mashale said.
He painted a picture of an industry that is struggling in a country that has a huge market that is being exploited by South African companies.
“In 2016/2017 Lesotho spent M214.2 million on 15.6 million litres of imported milk and produced only 1.3 million litres of milk and dairy associated products,” Mashale said.

During the 2017/18 fiscal the country spent M210 million on 18.9 million litres of milk and other dairy products. Local farmer produced only 1.3 million litres.
The LNDB, he said, wants farmers to claw back the market share from foreign companies.
“We have managed to train dairy cattle farmers in Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Berea on how to take care of these animals and will ensure that all farmers know about the advanced animal care for better production.”

Lesotho sells pasteurised and sour milk.
“We need to diversify and produce other products like cheese and yoghurt intensively, especially because they have a higher shelf-life,” Mashale said.
Pitso, the new committee’s chairman, pleaded with farmers to avoid bring politics into the association.

“A lot of projects have failed because they failed to draw the line between party politics and business politics. Our politics are simple, they are that of this industry,” he said.
“We want to ensure that farmers improve the quantities and quality of their product so that we can become self-sufficient as the dairy industry.”
“Statistics indicate that we import a lot of milk. Let us work towards improving farmers so that we become self-sustainable in terms of milk production. Let’s work together, grow associations in our districts and increase milk production in the country.”

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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