(MASERU/GENEVA) March 9, 2018 – The Kingdom of Lesotho is continuing to invest in agro-processing for its farmers: A brand new horticultural market centre will allow them to better preserve their fruits and vegetables and receive prompt payments for their products.
The centre opened its doors today with an inauguration ceremony led by the Right Honourable Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of Lesotho; Honourable Tefo Mapesela, Minister of Trade and Industry; Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC); and Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
Farmers can now drop off produce at the centre for cleaning, packing and cold storage. They receive payment upon delivery in cash or through bank transfer, when possible. The centre then sells the produce – including tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers and peaches – to hotels and supermarkets in Lesotho. This marks an important step in helping producers work towards their goal of exporting to the Southern African Development Community region and beyond.
Partnering for change
Prime Minister Thabane opened the event: "I have the privilege of witnessing the launch and handover of a market centre, which has been generously financed by the EIF and technically set up with the assistance of ITC. The development of the market centre is in line with the economic policy of the Government of Lesotho, to expand our productive capacity and diversify our export products and markets. The development is also a quest by the government to accelerate job creation and poverty reduction in general, particularly among the youth and women."
Minister Mapesela said: "The market centre will manage inclusive supply chain services, linking producers of fresh fruits and vegetables to domestic and international markets. Modern and comprehensive equipment for storage, processing, packaging and distribution of produce from farmers to buyers was installed and successfully commissioned. The value of the equipment is estimated to be $2 million."
ITC Executive Director Arancha González said: "Ownership at the country level, government level and farmers’ level is imperative to make this initiative scalable and impactful. We have to show people – especially the youth – that agriculture is an income-generating occupation that is worth investing in. We must seize all opportunities for value addition: in industry, in services and in agriculture."
EIF Executive Director Ratnakar Adhikari said: "In directly connecting farmers to buyers, this new market is a truly promising initiative. Add to that the element of access to finance and you have a host of new possibilities for incomes in Lesotho's agricultural sector. I commend the country and our partners for this move to increase incomes and enhance opportunities for fruit and vegetable exports, including to the regional market."
Tackling major challenges
The horticultural market centre is a response to two major challenges facing farmers in Lesotho: post-harvest losses of between 20% and 50%, and lack of access to finance. Farmers can sell their produce to the centre – a reliable and consistent buyer – soon after harvest without having to seek out other buyers or work through intermediaries. These can be time-consuming processes that often result in produce going to waste.
To improve access to finance, the centre encourages farmers to receive payments through bank transfer, which helps build their credit history. Having experience working with banks – and becoming familiar with the requirements of financial institutions – helps them strengthen their case when approaching banks and financial institutions for financing to expand their small businesses.
Growing through greenhouses
Business, government and international partners worked together to make the market centre a reality. In December 2016, the Lesotho National Development Corporation leased a factory shell at Ha Tikoe Industrial Estate to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to set up the market centre. It was built as part of the Agriculture Productivity and Trade Development project under the EIF and was implemented by ITC in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and Ministry of Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing. The market centre will be operated by the private sector in partnership with the government.
This approach of working with all of the main stakeholders in Lesotho ensured that the project was demand-driven, reflected the priorities of the farmers and would have greater ownership by Lesotho’s partners moving forward.
Through the project, 115 smallholder farmers in four districts received greenhouses to gain better planning skills to increase yields and improve the quality of their produce. By using greenhouse technology, they learned to grow higher-quality crops, reduce losses and lengthen the growing season, enabling them to earn higher incomes.
The project, started in 2013, was designed to help transform the perception of the agricultural industry in Lesotho, especially among the youth, and to ensure it delivered as a modern, income-generating and employment-creating career path that supports inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country. As agriculture is one of the country’s key sectors under its national vision, robust and higher-quality production would directly support food security, job creation and poverty eradication.
Notes for the Editor
About ITC – The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
About EIF – The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) is the only multilateral partnership dedicated exclusively to assisting Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in their use of trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction. The EIF partnership of 51 countries, 24 donors and 8 partner agencies works closely with governments, development organizations, civil society and academia. Together we leverage our collective know-how, reach and reputation to tackle the world’s most pressing trade-for-development issues.
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