Fresh battle over SA wool sales

Fresh battle over SA wool sales

 MASERU-YOU cannot have your cake and eat it.
That, in a nutshell, seems to be the government’s candid message to wool farmers insisting on selling their wool directly to South Africa.
For two years the 40 000-odd farmers fought the government’s regulations forcing them to sell their wool locally.

The government eventually begrudgingly relented and repelled the controversial regulations. Now farmers can choose to sell their wool locally or in South Africa.

But the government, perhaps still bent on localising wool sales, has made it a hard choice.
It has told farmers that they will have to sponsor veterinary doctors to travel to South Africa to certify their wool before it is auctioned and exported.

That means the government is refusing to carry the cost of certifying wool from its own farmers.
For the farmers, this means additional costs that might run into about half a million every season.

It’s a decision that has caught farmers by surprise because the government has always sponsored veterinarian doctors’ trips to Port Elizabeth.
The farmers only discovered the new arrangement from a letter the Ministry of Agriculture’s Principal Secretary, Nchakha Makara, recently wrote to the South African Wool and Mohair Buyers Association (Sawamba).

In that letter Makara told Sawamba, the association of buyers, that the government will no longer sponsor its veterinarians to certify Lesotho’s wool.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has resolved that all those who wish to continue sending their wool to South Africa, mainly Port Elizabeth, who will need services of the government veterinarians to certify their wool to international markets, should take full responsibility of paying for travelling, meals and accommodation costs for veterinarians and their drivers,” Makara said.

He also demanded that there be clarity on who between Sawamba, BKB and the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Grower’s Association (LWMGA) will incur the costs associated with those trips.
According to the letter a veterinary doctor and a driver are supposed to spend three days and two nights in Port Elizabeth verifying the Lesotho fibre.

The cost includes M3 000 for fuel and M29 280 allowances for both the vet and driver.  
This means in a season about M500 000 would be spent on 15 trips. Sawamba responded on Septembers 1, agreeing to cover the cost of three trips for the September catalogue but cautioned the government to remember that farmers will pay the bills.

Sawamba’s letter to Makara shows that in September alone veterinarians might make five trips to South Africa to certify the wool. This means in September alone the farmers might pay M161 400 for the trips.
On September 4 Sawamba’s manager, Glynnis Gillwald, wrote to Makara saying they are willing to subsidise the allowances with a maximum of M5 000 a day per person and the M3 000 fuel per trip for the next three trips until September 30.

“Sawamba, however, proposes that in an effort to reduce the costs, the South African industry makes the accommodation and transport arrangements, which are to be deducted from the US$305 (M4 880) per person per day,” Gillwald said.
She said the Sawamba board also expressed concern about the high cost of the trips in light of the 30 percent drop in wool prices.
“These high charges will be to the detriment of the Lesotho wool growers,” Gillwald said.

“In an effort to obtain the best possible prices for the Lesotho growers at the lowest possible cost, Sawamba respectfully requests that serious consideration be given to reducing the costs to more realistic amounts in Rand terms.”

“These costs will then be paid for by Sawamba.”
LMWGA spokesperson, Khotsang Moshoeshoe, has described the move as “another tactic by the government to frustrate farmers”.
Moshoeshoe said the government has previously asked the LMWGA to sponsor the doctors when it doesn’t have the money.

“We have never failed to honour their request in the past but running to Sawamba clearly shows that they are just trying to slow things down,” he said.
 “They (government) still do not want to own up to their mistakes, they are still trying to prove a point that their suggested localisation of the industry works despite its dismal failure.”
He said during the last auction the government was reluctant to send veterinary doctors to PE.

“The vet left on Sunday to certify wool that should have been certified on Wednesday and was certified only on Monday after we made a lot of noise about it.”
Makara told thepost that he wrote to Sawamba because it is the one seeking services from government vets. He said it was a mistake to ask farmers to assist to sponsor the veterinary doctors’ trips.

“Now we are correcting that mistake so that it never happens again hence we wrote to Sawamba,” Makara said.
“Sawamba must incur the veterinary doctor’s services as it incurs shipping and insurance costs after sale.”

“We want them to cover accommodation costs, travel costs and allowances as per government standards for all public servants when on official trips,” Makara said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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