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M15m set aside to buy maize from farmers

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MASERU-THE government has set aside M15 million to buy beans and maize from local farmers which will be distributed to vulnerable communities hard hit by last year’s drought and the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme to buy from local farmers was launched by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in Hlotse last week. Majoro’s deputy, Mathibeli Mokhothu, presided over a similar programme in Quthing on Monday. The Prime Minister said the government will buy the grains from local farmers following a devastating drought last year. He said he was launching a nationwide food purchase programme to address the national food emergency and to encourage Basotho to grow their own food with the assurance that their produce will be bought. “The food purchased will be packaged and delivered to those of our people that are in dire need of food assistance,” Dr Majoro said. “The local food purchase programme is also intended to complement the call by government for Basotho to grow the bulk of their food by creating a market for growers,” he said. He said it is estimated that 766 169 Basotho countrywide will be without enough food this year. Of these 582 169 live in rural areas while 184 000 people live in urban and peri-urban areas. He said the country is in need of an estimated M1.2 billion to buy food for the poor. Majoro immediately bought 1 373 bags of beans weighing 50 kilograms each from Leribe farmers. His deputy Mokhothu told Quthing farmers last Monday the country is currently in a state of national disaster following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March this year. The state of disaster will end in April next year. Mokhothu said in June the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) conducted a study on how Basotho earn their living. “The purpose was to assess the changes brought by Covid-19 and drought,” Mokhothu said. He said due to lack of rains last year the 2020 harvest was impacted in a negative way and left many families without food. “The situation became even worse when the lockdown restrictions were put in place,” he said. He said more businesses were forced to close as a result of the lockdown which was imposed to halt the spread of the pandemic. The study, he said, found out that 40 percent of the population in Lesotho is living below the poverty datum line. This meant that the government had to sit down and plan how they will help combat hunger. “The government decided to buy Basotho produce, which is maize and beans, to fill the gap caused by Covid-19 and drought,” Mokhothu said. He added that the move will likely boost the farmers’ morale to grow more crops. Mokhothu said Basotho should realise that it is important to work with their own hands for food production and the government will play its part by buying the produce. “So far here at Mphaki (in Quthing district) there are 260 bags of beans weighing 50kg each and 100 bags of maize weighing 50kg,” Mokhothu said. He said the government would buy the agricultural produce. He said 50kg Pinto and sugar beans cost M1 150 per bag, 50kg of red beans (lebete) M1 500, while maize costs M200 per 50 kg. In addition to that Mokhothu said the government is subsidizing seeds with 60 percent and ploughing of fields with 50 percent. Fertilizer is also subsidized with 50 percent. According to him their plan is to go to the seeds manufacturing companies and pay subsidy money there so that businessmen buy in bulk and sell at affordable prices to local farmers. He also said they want Lesotho to be number one country in the sale of wool and mohair adding that they know of the problems that faced the farmers last year as they were not well paid. “We will ensure that the businessman who did not pay Basotho is forced to do so,” he said, referring to wool and mohair brokers who are still owing farmers. Nkheli Liphoto

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