Govt ends LWC’s wool and mohair monopoly

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  • as BKB and four others get licenses

Bereng Mpaki

THE government has awarded new licences for the brokering and auctioning of wool and mohair to five companies, including South African brokers, BKB.

The awarding of the new licences brings to an end the one year monopoly that Chinese national, Stone Shi, had enjoyed in the sector through his ownership of the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC).

Two South African companies, namely BKB and OVK (CMW) and three local companies, Maluti Wool and Mohair Centre, Highlands Veterinary Services were granted licences to broker and auction wool and mohair.

Another local company, Frasers, was licenced to engage in the shearing and bulk storage of wool and mohair.

Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister, Chalane Phori, yesterday announced the awarding of the new licences on behalf of the inter-ministerial committee on wool and mohair.

Mr Phori said the move was aimed at creating competition within the industry to improve farmers’ earnings.

Up until yesterday’s announcement of the new licensees, LWC enjoyed a monopoly in the wool and mohair industry thanks to the controversial Agricultural Marketing Wool and Mohair Licensing regulations of 2018.

The farmers bitterly opposed the regulations and in June this year they came together in their thousands to stage the mother of all protests in Maseru to press the government to amend the regulations to allow them to sell their produce from anywhere and through the brokers of their choice.

Addressing a press conference in Maseru yesterday, Mr Phori said, “The cabinet sub-committee on wool and mohair has decided to increase the number of wool and mohair brokers and auctioneers”.

“The awarding of these licenses is meant to increase options for farmers and wool and mohair as per, the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane)’s statement that Basotho should have options on where to sell their wool and mohair.

“This will also strengthen the competition in order to get the best value for wool or mohair prices and the way of doing business.

“A blend of local and South African companies (have been awarded licences) and we believe this will promote linkages of the two countries’ value chains.

“Unlike in the past where our knowledge was limited to shearing, packaging and documentation, it is now extending to brokering, auctioning and export logistics.”

Mr Phori added that the government stood by the wool and mohair regulations it issued last year as part of efforts to empower local farmers. He said all the companies are expected to operate within Lesotho in line with the regulations.

On his part, the deputy chairperson of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), Teboho Leleka, welcomed the entry of new players to the wool and mohair industry.

“We are delighted with this development as government has realised the need for an open market in the industry. We were not happy with the way wool and mohair trading was conducted this season with lower and delayed payments to wool and mohair farmers,” Mr Leleka said.

BKB’s wool and mohair manager Isaak Staats, described the awarding of new licences as a step in the right direction.

“This is a positive step from government. At least we can now sit around the table and figure out a way to get the system working for the producers again,” Mr Staats said.

Maluti Wool and Mohair Centre representative, Lehlohonolo Matee, said they were ready to serve the wool and mohair farmers.

“We are grateful to the Thomas Thabane-led government and minister Chalane Phori for giving us this opportunity. We promise to deliver so that the farmers will not complain anymore,” Mr Matee said.

Frasers managing director, Osman Moosa, said he was happy that his company was resuming the work it had done before. He however, said the smuggling of wool and mohair out of the country threatened the viability of the licenced dealers.

In response, cabinet sub-committee member and Minister of Defence and National Security, Tefo Mapesela, said he hoped the awarding of the new licences would help to end the smuggling of wool and mohair.

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