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Let’s export fruits to the world



Before I forget, in reference to last week’s opinion piece, I made a point that one in every four oranges consumed in the world, comes from South Africa and that accounts to 25% share of the global market. That’s quite sizable. If oranges grow in South Africa it surely means that they can grow in Lesotho. In fact, it makes me think of an exhibit I’ve always wanted to make in the winter season. At my home, in a village named Ha Sekepe, Mazenod (Thota-Moli), there is an orange tree that was planted as an experiment to see if oranges can grow in Lesotho. Funny enough, it is an experiment that has succeeded immensely and the harvest of that tree goes as high as 200 oranges per season. 200 oranges per tree! I understand that some experienced farmers even harvest as much as 400 to 600 oranges per tree. Now imagine if we can plant one million orange trees around the country with help from the Lesotho Defence Force. That would easily equate to a harvest of more than 200 million oranges per annum. In New York, the cost of an orange is about $2. At an exchange rate of about $1 to M15.00, you can easily do your calculations if we sell one orange for $1= M15.00 per orange. My calculator says we can earn about 3 Billion Maloti per annum from 1 million trees. 3 Billion that is not taxable and goes straight to our pockets. This is more or less what Lesotho makes from the diamond industry per annum. You see, we can easily harvest orange diamonds. This can be a true economic revolution. Now, what is really stopping us Basotho people to ride on this “orange” wave and collaborate with South African farmers and take the global market share further to 30%? Guys! What are we waiting for? This point also makes me think of an idea once planted in my mind by one good friend of mine, the late Phallang Mokhesi. Ntate Mokhesi was once a managing director of the Basotho Canners sometime in the 90’s. So, he said, of all the products or produce that came from Lesotho for the export market, peaches were by far the most popular. Europeans just loved peaches from Lesotho. Mainly because they were organic and were rarely damaged by hail or insects. Ntate Mokhesi would speak so passionately about an advantage Lesotho had over other producers and had we stuck to that advantage, Lesotho could’ve been a world leader in the export of peaches. Lesotho has an advantage on peaches because they grow so easily and Basotho have multiple techniques on how to grow and multiply the trees (ho li nyalisa). The climate, soil composition and fresh water also favours us. I for one, love sowing seeds found inside peaches and in a matter of weeks they germinate into trees, without even watering them. It’s funny because Ntate Bohloa senior used to tell me a story of his time in Kenya. He said Kenyans didn’t know what peaches were and they used to enjoy them so much because they were totally new to them. We have a unique selling point in Lesotho but something seems not to be working within us. I don’t know whether we have lost hope or focus but something seems not to be working. Kapa se re hlanya ke polotiki tsee? (Or have we gone mad from politics?) There are simple things within reach that have proven to work such as the Basotho Canners factory. But we seem not to be able to make simple things work. We’ve rather opted to go to towns and urban centres to build shacks and sit in there all day pretending to be Baits’ukuli and complain about this and that all day. The things that happen in some of those shacks will shock you. Some of them are brothels and sell alcohol near schools and some of those shacks act as agencies for human trafficking. Disgusting stuff! On the other hand criminals will go claim to be Baits’ukuli trying to feed their families. Nonsense! Our people must learn to go till the soil and be productive human beings. For a country to be able to attract investment it needs to be able to measure its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and we simply can’t at the moment with a bloated informal sector. It’s just impossible, because most of the goods that are sold on the streets are smuggled into the country with no benefit to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA). repeat again, no one will invest in a country that has a capital city that looks like a slum and the choice is simply ours to make to clean our act or stay poor. Yet again, my question still stands, why is the Basotho Canners closed? Well, the answer is simple. If you go ask the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and say, LNDC, why don’t you sell the Basotho Canners factory? The LNDC will answer back and tell you that it cannot be sold because it is a strategic asset of the Government of Lesotho. A tautologous answer if you may ask my honest opinion. So, should an asset that is a strategic asset of the Government remain a white elephant? For what good use? None whatsoever! This is what I fail to understand about us the Basotho people. We have seen things that can pull us out of poverty. The answers are right in front of us but we always choose to go for the most complicated ones. Sell Basotho Canners to a company such as the Rhodes Food Group (RFG) and allow the private sector to take the lead. Talking about Rhodes, it was in the year 1896 when Cecil John Rhodes ventured out into fruit tree farming in Cape Town after retiring from active politics. He was convinced to venture out into growing fruit trees by an Englishman named Harry Pickstone after a successful venture growing fruits in California. It was in 1897 when the first farm was opened in Boschendal and a company named Pioneer Fruit Growing Company was established in the Cape. The objective of planting the fruit trees was for the export market and they planted an array of trees that included pears, apricots, plums and peaches of which all grow quite successfully in Lesotho. The rest as they always say, is history. Cecil John Rhodes pioneered the success of exporting fruits to the world well over 100 years ago. Now, what is really stopping us Basotho from doing the same more that 100 years later with all the technology at our disposal? Absolutely nothing. Only our laziness and stupidity. We don’t need expensive strategic plans to figure out that grains such as maize are not to our advantage in Lesotho. We just need to focus on our advantage of fruit trees such as peaches, apricots, apples and oranges and export to the world. We need to earn money in US Dollars, Euros and Chinese Yuans. The exchange rate works so well in our favour at the moment. Ha re tsoheng, re tlohelleng botsoa, poone, polotiki le mekh’ukh’u re lo lemang lifate. Let us wake up, leave laziness, maize, politics and shacks and go plant trees. ‘Mako Bohloa

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