THE newly launched Maluti Fresh Market Centre in the Tikoe industrial area will stimulate Lesotho’s fresh produce farming, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has said.
Speaking during the launch of the centre in Maseru yesterday, Dr Majoro said the development may eventually lead to Lesotho restoring its reputation of exporting agricultural to the region.
Maluti Fresh Market Centre is co-owned by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and local private company, Talana Investments Group.
The only facility of its nature in Lesotho, the centre is expected to serve both small and large agricultural producers.
Its functions include storing, packaging and distributing fresh fruits and vegetables on commission on behalf of the producers.
Initially launched in 2018 by the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the centre never took off due to the lack of proper cleaning facilities and a management system. It was established through the support of donors including the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Addressing guests at the launch yesterday, Dr Majoro said Lesotho had a glorious productive past as evidenced by Leribe’s Corn Exchange where local and foreign buyers used to converge to purchase grain.
Dr Majoro said he was hopeful that the Maluti Fresh Market Centre would stimulate food security as the country as has been harshly reminded by the Covid-19 pandemic of the need to be self-sufficient.
“In the past, Lesotho used to export agricultural produce to other countries in the region but sadly we have since regressed and are now wallowing in abject poverty,” Dr Majoro said.
“This facility will help us to work towards resuming exportation of produce as we have made a conscious decision to take steps towards being food secure.”
He said the facility will address a number of challenges like lack of a secure market for products.
For his part, Trade and Industry Minister, Thabiso Molapo, said the market’s launch was in line with the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) which has identified agriculture as one of the key sectors to drive deconomic development.
He said trading at the centre started last Friday.
“It may have taken us a long time to launch operations here but right now we have the right management and systems in place for fruitful operations,” Dr Molapo said.
Acting LNDC chief executive officer (CEO), Advocate Molise Ramaili, said the market was a testimony of the LNDC’s commitment to addressing challenges in the agricultural sector.
“Through the centre the LNDC is providing a market for farmers to sell their produce and easily make profits that will encourage more Basotho to get into farming and upscale their operations,” Adv Ramaili said.
He said they have partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Standard Lesotho Bank to promote upscaling of small-scale farmers.
“In the next three months, we will put up a fund beginning with M2 million for eligible farmers to apply for access to finance,” Adv Ramaili said.
The expectation is that with time, the centre will increase job opportunities for Basotho.
One of the prospective buyers for the centre, Sam Mphana from Pick N Pay Lesotho, said the government should control agricultural imports to protect local production for the centre to thrive and contribute meaningfully towards addressing social economic issues like unemployment.