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Govt to re-introduce maize meal subsidy: Mokhothu

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

DEPUTY Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu says the cabinet will soon announce a subsidy to cushion the public against high maize meal prices.

A similar 30 percent subsidy on locally-produced maize meal, beans and peas was introduced from June 2016 to May 2017. This was to cushion the public against skyrocketing food prices in the aftermath of the 2015/16 El Niño-induced drought.

It was bankrolled to the tune of M162, 7 million by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven party governing coalition.

Speaking at the weekend burial of his late Democratic Congress (DC) legislator for Kolo constituency, Putsoane Leeto, Mr Mokhothu said the cabinet discussions on the maize meal subsidy were underway.

He said the plans to subsidise the cost of maize meal was triggered by the price hikes that had been brought on by the recurring drought which had affected crop yields.

He did not say when a decision would be reached or what percentage the subsidy would be.

“We know that people are facing hunger,” Mr Mokhothu told the handful of mourners.

“We are discussing a plan to subsidise retail prices for maize meal. We have also agreed that the government will purchase maize from local farmers to be donated back to the people,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Food prices have been hiked by almost 50 percent in the past few months since the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Shortly after the introduction of a nationwide lockdown from 30 March to 5 May 2020, the price of a 12,5kg bag of maize meal shot up to M108 from M75.

Mr Mokhothu also promised that wool and mohair farmers would soon be paid their outstanding  dues from the sales of their produce in the 2018 and 2019 farming season.

According to the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), more than 6000 farmers have still not received full payments for their produce which was sold to international buyers by the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in Thaba Bosiu.

Controversial businessman Stone Shi Maseru controls the LWC which until recently, had the monopoly to sell wool and mohair to international buyers on behalf on the local farmers.

He has been accused of deliberately failing to pay the farmers despite selling their produce.

Without giving an exact date, Mr Mokhothu said all the unpaid farmers would soon receive their dues.

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