Increase agriculture budget: Minister

Bereng Mpaki

SMALL Business Development Minister Chalane Phori has called on the government to allocate more funds towards agriculture to boost the country’s food security.

Mr Phori, who is an avid farmer in crop production and livestock rearing, said food is a basic need without which people cannot do anything productive.

The minister said this at a recent hand over of 125 shelters of two-metres length to the ministry of Local Government. He further said most commodities that are consumed on a daily basis are produced from agriculture hence it was critical for the sector to be well funded.

Agriculture is one of the four sectors along with manufacturing, tourism and technology that have been identified by the government as potential drivers of economic development according to the new National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II).

“I think it is time we change the way we have been doing the national budget as the bulk of our budget has for a long time been going towards health,” Mr Phori said adding: “We need to allocate more funds towards agriculture for better food production”.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, the government allocated about M409 million to the ministry of agriculture, while it allocated M479 million in 2017/2018 in a total budget of about M16 billion.

As Lesotho is a member of the African Union (AU), the above allocations are a far cry from the provisions of the AU’s 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, in which member states committed to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.

The objective was to eradicate hunger by 2025 and reduce poverty by the same time through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation.

Lesotho’s budget allocation towards agriculture in the current financial year accounts for just 2, 4 percent as compared to the 2, 99 percent for the 2017/2018 budget.

The Ministry of Health was allocated M2, 52 billion in 2018/19 while it was allocated M2, 25 billion in the 2017/2018 budget.

Mr Phori’s sentiments were echoed by Local Government Minister, Litšoane Litšoane, who said agriculture could play a significant role as an alternative business venture for small entrepreneurs.

Mr Litšoane, said if more investment is directed towards agriculture, Lesotho will not have to import agricultural produce throughout the year.

In his 2018/2019 budget speech, Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro outlined plans to develop the meat, hides, wool and mohair industries as part of a greater plan to boost the country’s agricultural output.

Dr Majoro also said the government was luring “large fruit growers to take interest in investing in Lesotho’s virgin fruit industry”.

In October last year, the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP) signed a M150 million deal with South African company Stargrow Group to improve Lesotho’s horticulture industry.

As part of the deal, three deciduous fruit pilot projects in Leribe at Likhothola, Mahobong and Likhetlane will be turned into a special vehicle company.

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