New horticultural centre boosts Lesotho’s SADC export ambitions

Last week saw the launch in Lesotho of a new horticultural market centre – financed by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and set up with the assistance of the International Trade Centre.

According to the ITC, the market will enable farmers in the country to drop off produce for cleaning, packing and cold storage while the centre itself will sell the produce to supermarkets in Lesotho, thus saving time and reducing waste.

“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,” said Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane. “The development is also a quest by the government to accelerate job creation and poverty reduction in general, particularly among the youth and women.”

Lesotho’s Trade and Industry minister, Tefo Mapesela, said that equipment for storage, processing, packaging and distribution of produce valued at US$2 million had been commissioned and installed at the market centre.

He added that the centre would manage inclusive supply chain services and link producers of fresh fruits and vegetables to domestic and international markets.

The horticultural market centre is expected to address two major challenges facing farmers in Lesotho - the post-harvest losses of between 20% and 50% and a lack of access to finance. To improve access to finance, the centre encourages farmers to receive payments through bank transfer, which helps build their credit history.

“In directly connecting farmers to buyers, this new market is a truly promising initiative,” said EIF executive director Ratnaker Adhikari. “Add to that the element of access to finance and you have a host of new possibilities for incomes in Lesotho's agricultural sector.”

An ITC spokesperson noted that the establishment of the centre had marked an important step in helping Lesotho producers reach their goal of exporting to the Southern African Development Community and beyond.

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