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Steep price hikes loom

Basotho are bracing themselves for a season of shock price increases for basic commodities this year. The Lesotho Flour Mills, the country’s biggest milling company, announced a seven percent price hike on all maize products starting next Monday.

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The company said the decision followed a significant increase in Safex maize prices in March this year.
While white maize traded between M3 700 and M3 900 per metric ton in January, the commodity’s price had recently shot to as high as M5 300.

“This spike follows high temperatures and low rainfall experienced during February and March 2024,” the announcement reads.

“Major maize production crop failures are expected across southern Africa, which caused the surge in maize prices,” it reads.

“Anticipate further price increases in early May 2024, with wholesale prices projected to reach up to M8 800 per metric ton.”

As if this is not enough, the Road Fund Secretariat has informed all road users that toll gate fees have been increased at all ports of entry, effective from Monday this week.
The increase has been effected on all four vehicle classes, and affects both locally registered vehicles and foreign registered vehicles.

Class 1 vehicles which include motorcycles and light vehicles will pay M65, up from the previous fee of M60. Foreign registered vehicles will now pay M90, up from the previous M80.
Class 2 vehicles, which are medium heavy vehicles designed for conveyance of people or freight will now pay M110 per vehicle, up from the previous fee of M100. Foreign registered vehicles will now pay M150, up from M135.

Class 3 vehicles, which are large heavy vehicles, will now pay M160, up from the previous M145 with foreign registered vehicles now paying M270, up from M200.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) has also increased electricity tariffs by nine percent from the beginning of this month.
This increase has triggered outrage from Basotho.

Section 2, an advocacy group that pushes for the respect of the constitution, has dragged the LEC to court in an effort to block the tariff increase.
The group has asked the High Court to order the LEC to issue its financial statement for 2022/ 23 so that it can be fairly ascertained whether the increment is necessary.
The Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) has waded into the matter, criticising the LEC tariff increases.

The Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) has also increased rates for drawing sewerage from M480 to M530 effective from April 1.
Fuel prices have also gone up.
A litre of petrol, petrol 93 and petrol 95, will now cost 45 lisente more. A litre of petrol 93 now costs M22.70 while a litre of petrol 95 will now cost M23.15.
However, the price for a litre of diesel and illuminating paraffin have remained unchanged.

Diesel costs M23.35 per litre and paraffin costs M17.60 per litre.
Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Limpho Tau, warned of the impending countrywide hunger caused by drought due to extreme El Nino effects that started in December.
Tau said the Ministry of Agriculture has warned that because of this excessive heat plants have withered and dried, which will lead to a poor harvest this year.

“Crops in the gardens and fields have dried prematurely and this is a sure sign that this year’s harvest will be poor,” he said.

Tau said the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) held consultative meetings with Early Warning Groups to discuss how to deal with the coming hunger.
He said the Department of Livestock has reported that pastures had dried and this means that the livestock and their products will not be of the desired quality.

“According to this situation, Basotho are already losing their means of livelihood and the expectation is that the number of vulnerable families will increase this year,” he said.

He said the DMA and the World Food Programme (WFP) are already supporting families in the hard-hit districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, and Thaba-Tseka.

Majara Molupe

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