Vegetables banned, then unbanned

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By Kefiloe Kajane

The Lesotho National Farmers’ Union (LENAFU) says the reopening of borders to imports of all controlled commodities post-restrictions on certain selected horticultural products is not surprising, as local production had taken a nosedive.

Speaking to theReporter, LENAFU programmes managerKhotso Lepheane said they understand the ministry’s decision to relax the restrictions on importation of certain vegetables because as farmers, they were not prepared for the sudden demand that came with supplying for bigger markets.

He said when the restrictions first came into force, farmers noticed that commodities like red and yellow peppers were not in abundance, because they are not the type of vegetables that local farmers normally produce in large quantities. As a result, the move affected businesses like big supermarkets and fruits and vegetable outlets, and consequently, consumers.

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“Even the variety was a problem. Shops prefer a certain variety of tomatoes because they last longer in storage, but farmers sometimes did not have that variety. However, we are thankful to government for giving us a chance to sell to large markets.

“It’s just we are on the threshold of winter and the tomatoes and peppers supplies that were so abundant in summer have depleted. It is vital that we understand that businesses still need to keep running, so it makes sense that the restrictions have been relaxed,” he said.

The dip in supplies of commodities saw a sudden spike in prices, with a single tomato costing more than M6, much to the chagrin of the general public, and Lepheane emphasized that it is important that the business side of things is taken into consideration. 

Meanwhile, Enrich Stores branch manager Victor Koetle says the ban on the agricultural commodities was not much of a challenge for them as they buy locally already. He added that, even though the production was not up to the desired standard, they were able to cope.

Asked if their prices went up because of scarcity of tomato and peppers, Koetle said: “No, we have always stuck to our normal prices despite the decrease in the production of vegetables in the country.”

Former minister of agriculture, marketing and food security Tefo Mapesela announced earlier this week that his ministry – through the department of marketing – had resolved to relax borders to importation of all controlled commodities post restrictions to certain selected fresh horticultural products (tomatoes, green peppers, green beans and apples.) The change is effective from April 9.

The decision comes after over two months of the ban of tomatoes, green beans and peppers coming in from South Africa.

Mapesela said the agribusiness sector is therefore expected to conduct business as usual.