THE Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) has reopened the Mafeteng Milk Collection Centre after seven years of inactivity.
The 1 500-litre facility, had been inactive following a bitter fallout over pricing among other issues between Mafeteng milk producers and their buyer, the Lesotho Dairy Products (LDP).
Adam Khalala, the Mafeteng Dairy Farmers Association chairperson said without an operational milk collection centre, many farmers went out of business.
He said the re-opening of the centre would resuscitate the waning spirits of dairy farming within the district.
The Mafeteng centre reopening brings the number of operational milk collection centres to six nationwide.
“Since the milk collection centre shut down, many dairy farmers’ operations have collapsed,” Mr Khalala said.
“We are therefore happy that the centre is reopening today as it will help us resuscitate our dairy farming. We are confident that under the new leadership, the LNDB is on the right track towards rebuilding the dairy sector.
“This industry would have been developed had the old LNDB leadership shown this type of dedication in the past.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo, who was one of the dignitaries at the reopening of the facility, said the dairy industry had the potential to contribute to economic development if production can be scaled up.
He said the government had identified agriculture as one of the priority sectors that it can use to grow the economy and create jobs in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II) and has also identified 22 projects to get the work started.
“The government has therefore adopted the Big Fast Results technique to facilitate attainment of this vision. Under this initiative, 22 agriculture projects have been hatched, with some already underway while others are soon to start.
“One of the 22 agricultural projects is a dairy project. In truth, there are numerous business opportunities within the dairy sector that are yet to be tapped into.
“It is time we improved the dairy industry to move towards ensuring that all dairy products consumed locally are produced locally and reduce imports.
“The dairy industry has the potential to contribute to the country’s economic growth but that will be only possible if the farmers increase production with the support of the LDP.”
Mr Molapo commended the LNDB for rekindling good working relations between dairy farmers and the LDP. He said the LNDB had also embarked on a number of programmes to develop the dairy industry.
He encouraged LDP to pay farmers timeously.
“The LDP must also pay dairy farmers on time as the biggest challenge facing the provide sector in Lesotho is payment delays.”
For his part, LNDB chief executive officer Abiel Mashale, said resuscitating milk collection centres was one of the efforts the LNDB had embarked on to increase local dairy production to reduce imports.
He said they responded positively to the call by Mafeteng farmers to reopen the collection centre by refurbishing it and equipping it.
He said opening of collection centres was a prerequisite for developing the dairy sector.
“Last week we assisted farmers from Mohale’s Hoek and Leribe to buy 34 pregnant heifers, some of which have started giving birth. This will go a long way in increasing milk production in the country.”
Mafeteng #55 legislator, Temeki Tšolo, who is the minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said reopening of the centre would attract more investment into the industry from the private sector.
“I am happy for you and I believe that the reopening of this milk collection centre will inspire more entrants into the dairy industry, thereby helping to create jobs.”
He said increased production of milk in the country had the potential will support His Majesty king Letsie III’s position as a special ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
“Since milk is a mainstay in nutrition, I see the reopening of this facility having an impact towards increased milk production in the country, which augurs well with His Majesty King Letsie III’s position as an ambassador of the United Nations for nutrition,” Mr Tšolo said.