MASERU — About 70 percent of food consumed in the country is imported from South Africa and Lesotho’s Trade Ministry seeks to embark on a massive campaign to commercialise agriculture to drastically reduce this anomaly.
Hlompho Mpeta, the Deputy Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry Cooperatives and Marketing said the status quo is a direct reflection of the nature of farmers this country has had for a long time.
Speaking at a press conference to launch an agricultural marketing campaign yesterday, Mpeta said farming in Lesotho had for a long time failed to grow beyond subsistence needs.
“Our farmers have for a long time been known for producing mainly for consumption, hence the situation where we import about 70 percent of our food,” Mpeta said.
According to Mpeta, the status quo is not ideal “since it means that our economy is being eroded as our money gets flushed away to improve the South African economy”.
He says this has prompted the trade ministry to embark on a massive campaign of commercialising agriculture through marketing.
He said agriculture has to be treated as business where business principles such as marketing are observed in order to ensure the sector flourishes and accordingly meet the demands of the country’s population.
The ministry is on a mission to improve marketing for agricultural products through training and skills development of farmers.
Farmers are encouraged to take advantage of the different characteristics of their locations as they produce different crops and focus on their areas’ strengths.
“Different areas of the country have their agricultural strengths that need to be adhered to in agricultural production so that the best comes out of them.
There are areas that yield very high maize output, while others produce the best beans because of varying climates”, Mpeta said.
In order to make commercial farming effective, farmers should readily accept the technicalities that come with it and be mindful of technology. The ministry also pledged to offer farmers skills to shift their focus to the demands of consumers.
Mpeta said there is a massive untapped market at both national and international level.
He said the ministry aimed at opening doors for Lesotho’s agricultural products in the country and elsewhere.
Apparently the massive demand that exists for Lesotho farmers’ produce is not met because farmers produce without prior consideration of the anticipated market.
So, with marketing training, farmers will be expected to produce for relevant markets which demand their products.
Lesotho is a least developed country in which about three quarters of the people live in rural areas and engage in subsistence agriculture.
The country relies on South Africa for much of its economic activity.
Lesotho imports 90 percent of all the goods it consumes from South Africa.