The Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licensing) (Amendment) Regulation 2019 No 68 was released on Friday, 29th November, 2019 in response to the directive made by Parliament in its resolution following the Ad Hoc committee report. Parliament passed a motion that farmers must be allowed to market their produce to the markets of their choice.
In farming it should be understood that the term “their choice” is well understood by farmers to mean where they get their best return. Basotho wool and mohair producers have always understood this and no one can woodwinkle them. This also buttresses the function of the Lesotho Produce Marketing Service (LPMS). I call on anybody to glance at the functions for which LPMS was established in 1978. In particular I call on the Minister of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing if he is serious about his duty.
The recently released Regulations Vol 64 no 68 as Legal Notice No. 97 of 2019 falls short of meeting the directive of Parliament and makes it even more difficult to operationalize it. This should be considered a nonstarter and not worthy of meeting the parliamentary motion.
Sometime last week a draft went into circulation as a document responding to Parliament and following its circulation, Farmers Rock (a traders association) and The Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) responded by rebutting this document and advancing reasons why it would be impossible to implement. We have been proven right because it has been reproduced verbatim in the Regulation under Clause 6. We had however learnt that the Minister had claimed he had met the traders hence making this draft. This was false, the Minister had never met traders and therefore was misleading the House. We take a position that if he is serious at all, he should revisit the procedures that were followed before the introduction of his destructive regulations, 2018 and in particular the participation of other ministries, as an example the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security which cannot be overlooked. We cannot export anything by overlooking the Animal Health Department which should release the export permit whether he likes it or not. It is this ministry that will testify that the products are free of diseases and originate from disease free areas in the country so that our products do not pose any threat to other countries. The minister must understand that this is a position taken by the Organisation of International Epizootics(World Animal Health Organisation) of which Lesotho is a member.
One of the serious issues is a deliberate attempt by Minister to destroy LNWMGA. This he should not be allowed to do. This is an institution we should be proud of. Past Premiers and Ministers( from Morena Leabua Jonathan, Morena Sekhonyana ‘Maseribane up to Premier Pakalitha Mosisidi saw wisdom in establishing this institution and I can vouch to say they were correct. To date this institution gives services to His Majesty King Letsie III. We are proud of this institution which is revered by other countries as a living example of organized agriculture.
We reject Regulation no. 68 in its entirety and call on Parliament to similarly reject it and call on the Government to go back to its drawing board before its recess to have a credible document that will meet the aspirations of the entire nation.
Failure to have a document that meets our aspirations means Basotho will not market their produce so that they can have a Christmas worthy of their hard work. They will fail to make payments for school fees of their children and also fail to meet their family commitments. The Ad Hoc committee reported that some farmers had lost their lives as a result of introduction of this draconian regulation. I am afraid many more are going to lose their lives.
I conclude by noting that farmers worldwide work hard to reduce their marketing costs, but I am afraid this regulation will result in the increase of marketing costs that farmers will realize and result in lower returns for them.
Basotho let us unite in rejecting Agricultural Marketing (Wool and Mohair Licencing) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 released on 29th November, 2019 for the benefit of our farmers and country.