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Lesotho bans tomato, apple imports

Lesotho this week banned the importation of tomatoes and apples from South Africa. The ban, which became effective from Tuesday, will run for two months. The Ministry of Agriculture said it had stopped issuing out import permits for the two fruits starting Tuesday. The ministry said a recent study had showed that the country has 497 004 boxes of tomatoes and a better average of apples from Likhothola Fruit Farm, Maoa-Mafubelu, and Likhetlane commercial farms and other places.

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They produced 81 percent of red apples, 11 percent of Golden Delicious (yellow) and eight percent of green apples.

Agriculture Minister Thabo Mofosi said “this will help the suppliers to buy in the country without competition from South Africa products”.

“Lesotho is very lucky to have some places where we can grow fruits that are rarely affected by climate change,” Mofosi said.

“Apples in the country are of high quality and luckily they ripen three weeks before South Africa’s apples,” he said.

“This must be an advantage to Basotho and we should make use of it.”

He said the ministry will make sure that the selling and buying prices are under control.

“I want to congratulate the producers of tomato and apples that were engaged to make Market Day successful last month,” he said.

“That is where they were able to sell their different products. It was very successful and showed that Basotho are working together,” he said.

“We will make sure that we hold events for producers with the purpose of creating a strong partnership with them.”

He said he will announce when to open the borders for imports again.

One of the traders, Tsebang Ntsu, told thepost that he has no problem with the ministry banning tomatoes, but he said he had a problem with the apples’ ban “because the apples that the country produces are not of the desired quality”.

Another trader, Lehana Lebaka, said the ministry should have delayed the ban to give itself enough time to deal with business people who will increase prices unjustly.

The Programme Manager of the Lesotho National Farmers Union (LENAFU), Khotso Lepheana, said while Lesotho can produce these fruits in large quantities “we still do not have facilities and good infrastructure and that will not stop the competition with South Africa”.

“That means when we do not have facilities and good infrastructure, it will not be easy for producers to (compete properly) on the market,” Lepheana said.

Lepheana said “there is nothing that can motivate traders to stop crossing to our neighbours”.

Relebohile Tšepe

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