By Nthakoana Ngatane
MASERU – For the first time in the history of the Lesotho National Development Corporation – LNDC, farmers will soon have places to sell their fresh produce daily. And if Chief Executive officer Molise Ramaili gets his way, they will grow from subsistence to commercial farming.
In addition to opening access to finance for farmers, Ramaili and his team will open the markets, first in Maseru this week, and then other centres later.
“The first market is at Ha Tikoe. The Ministry of Agriculture has developed one other market centre in Leribe and has started the process to establish another in Mohale’s Hoek. says Ramaili.
He says LNDC has established a company that operates the market centre called Maluti Fresh Produce Market.
“One of the key factors has always been access to market, and most people have been discouraged by the fact that they have produce at their premises, but there is no place to sell the produce from their farming” says Ramaili.
He explains how Maluti Fresh Produce Market will determine prices.
“It is a price discovery platform in itself, hence prices are set based on demand, supply and quality. Farmers deliver products and the market sells on their behalf and pays them their money on sales minus deductions of commissions and any other things as instructed by farmers.”
He says the LNDC also wants to fund farmers to upscale their operations, and the corporation believes that with proper capacity building, many Basotho will be interested in growing their farming capacity to meet the market demand at the market centre.
“The World Food Programme – WFP, and Standard Lesotho Bank want to promote farmers operating at a small scale to upscale. In the next three months we will soon put up a fund beginning with M2million for eligible farmers to apply for access to finance. Farmers will also have access to the purchase order financing.” Says Ramaili.
He previously told Lesotho Express that LNDC will finance any company or start -up that has a clear purchase order from a government ministry or a reputable entity, to purchase the goods that it is supplying to the ministry or company.
He says the payment will go LNDC, which will withhold the funds that it financed the entity with, and the remainder of the payment will be delivered to the entity.
The corporation says it will also chase government departments and companies to pay suppliers backed by LNDC.
According to the private sector competitiveness and economic diversification project, Lesotho is ranked 38 out of 190 countries on the of World Bank ease doing business.
“This ranking is measured on time and costs -excluding tariffs – associated with documentary compliance, border compliance and domestic transport. It is estimated that border compliance for exporting can take up to 4 hours, and document compliance for exporting takes 1 hour. To import goods, border compliance can take up to 5 hours, while document compliance can take up to 1 hour.” Says the project.
It says this complex process has been simplified with the phased implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data – ASYCUDA World, a customs data management system developed by UNCTAD, in 2017.
But it also acknowledges that to be competitive in a globalised economy, the ease of trading across borders for imports and exports is a competitive advantage for any country.
There are peach, apple and berry farmers in Maseru, Leribe and Butha-Buthe who were funded to start businesses, were incubated, assisted to meet world standards and to export to international markets by the project, but they are few and far between.
“Through the market centre, LNDC is providing a platform where farmers can sell their produce and easily make a profit and that will in essence encourage more Basotho to get into farming and to upscale their operations.” Says Ramaili