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Wool regulations thrown out



MASERU-MORE than 40 000 farmers across the country can breathe easy after Parliament this week repealed the controversial and hugely unpopular wool and mohair regulations.
This comes after parliament’s ad hoc committee on wool and mohair recommended that the regulations be cancelled to make way for more palatable rules. The committee found that the regulations were ill-conceived and unfair to farmers.

It said the regulations created an unfair monopoly, led to depressed prices and delays in payments.
Stone Shi, whose Lesotho Wool Centre was granted a wool broking monopoly, failed to provide evidence that his so-called online auction was genuine and his claims that Lesotho wool was being tested in New Zealand were true. He also deducted more than the stipulated four percent from the farmers. He is also accused of failing to remit the dipping levy he collected from farmers.
In sum, the regulations were found to have created chaos in the sector and suffering to farmers, leaving their flock at the mercy of diseases that are likely to reduce fibre yields.

Ntlhoi Motsamai, the Hloahloeng MP, described the decision to repeal the regulations as a victory for farmers.
Motsamai said the regulations pushed thousands of farmers and their families into poverty.

The parliament also said the government should intervene to force Shi to pay farmers who have been waiting for their monies for months.
It said if Shi doesn’t pay, the parliament said, the government will have to cough out the money.
Mokoenihi Thinyane, the Chairman of the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Grower’s Association, said although they are happy that the regulations have been repealed it is too early to celebrate because they are still waiting to see if parliament will propose new rules.

The parliament’s decision could be seen as a stunning defeat for Minister of Small Businesses Chalane Phori, who staunchly defended the regulations.
At one time he boldly declared that he would rather be castrated than be forced to bin the regulations.
He remained vehemently opposed to any attempts to tweak the regulations even when it became clear that the Lesotho Wool Centre was failing to pay farmers, thousands of whom were struggling to survive.

As the ad hoc committee presented its report on Monday, Phori hurriedly called a press conference to continue his crusade against those opposed to the regulations.
Phori seemed anxious to defend the regulations that have been roundly condemned by his colleagues in parliament.
He flatly denied that many farmers were still owed, insisting that the Lesotho Wool Centre had paid 98.8 percent of farmers. Phori said only 584 farmers out of 49 700 have not been paid.

“One of the reasons for the delayed payments is that some farmers work in South Africa and are unable to access their funds,” Phori said.
“Some changed names and it requires a lot of documents as proof from the bank,” he said, adding that other names were omitted.

He said his ministry has appointed an officer to verify if farmers in all districts have been paid. He said the centre was not entirely to blame for the delay in payments.
He said some wool that was already on the sea could not be delivered because China banned wool imports from South Africa after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

“The last 19 containers were not able to be shipped because of that. Basotho were not paid because after the auction wool and mohair did not reach the buyer.”
Phori said he and the Minister of Agriculture, Mahala (Molapo) at the time, went to China to negotiate with the buyers “because they were saying wool and mohair took a long time and they had bought it elsewhere”.

Phori said the Chinese buyers “did not want to take it anymore so we went there to advocate for it and gather information for the benefit of Basotho”.
Phori and Molapo attended for the first time the Nanjing Wool Market Conference in China to plead Lesotho’s case with the Chinese and global buyers.
The minister said the last shipment was worth US$700 000.00, (about M10.3 million) and the ministry is working with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Lesotho to pay the last batch of farmers. He said 584 farmers are owed M4.3 million.

Staff Reporter

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