WOOL and mohair farmers endured a dry festive period after failing to receive payments for trading their fabric through the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC).
The furious farmers have blasted authorities at the wool centre for failing to fulfill their promise of paying them before Christmas day. The farmers remain unpaid to date.
The farmers, for the first time sold their fabric from within the country through LWC after Lesotho held its first-ever local auction of wool and mohair in November last year.
For the past 44 years, Basotho farmers have been selling their fabric in South Africa through brokers BKB until the promulgation of the Wool and Mohair Regulations of 2018.
The regulations which were gazetted on 4 May 2018 forbid anyone from trading in wool and mohair without a license from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing and they stipulate that all the transactions should be done from Lesotho.
The controversial regulations have been bitterly opposed by many local farmers who feel that they not only deprive them of higher earnings in South Africa but also that they were enacted to benefit Chinese businessman, Stone Shi. The LWC, which is holding the auctions, is a joint venture between the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA) and Mr Shi’s Maseru Dawning Trading Company.
The LNWMGA holds 75 percent shares while Maseru Dawning holds the remaining 25 percent in the LWC.
Speaking to Lesotho Times this week, one of the wool farmers, Likotsi Monyeke, said they were yet to receive any payments from the wool centre.
He said they were so broke that they were considering selling off their livestock just to get by.
“Operators of the wool centre have played us for fools, promising to pay us before Christmas day but ultimately failing,” Mr Monyeke said.
“And they are now coming up with all sorts of excuses to justify this.”
Mr Monyeke said they have since been told there are some missing documents which have delayed the processing of their payments.
“We had bad Christmas holidays without money to keep our families going. Now schools are opening soon and there is still no sign of our payments.
“The way things are going, we have to sell our livestock in order to ensure up-keeping of our families. And we are talking about animals that we have depended on for sustenance for many years.”
Speaking on behalf of LWC, administrator Manama Letsie said they encountered unforeseen challenges that delayed the payment process. He however, promised that they were expecting to start paying the farmers latest by Monday next week.
“It is true that we have not managed to pay the farmers their moneys before Christmas like we had promised them and we are very sorry about that.
“We encountered challenges that we had not foreseen, like the fact that some of the buying countries would be on end of year holidays. We also had issues with the documents that are supposed to go along with the fabric, which we not submitted from the farmers’ representatives.”
“We are making progress in addressing these issues and I am hopeful that by Friday this week, I will announce on radio that payments have been processed. The latest we expect to start the payments is on 7 January.”
He also indicated that they have shipped 20 containers this week. Other shipments were made before Christmas. The wool centre previously indicated that wool would only be shipped to buyers upon receiving payment from them.