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By Neo Kolane
Fresh produce company Maluti Fresh Produce Market in collaboration with the department of marketing and crops of the ministry of agriculture and food security are working on a commodity grouping system which will also see local farmers grouped and groomed.
Maluti Fresh Produce Market is a fresh produce company offering to its Lesotho and global clients in the space of fresh produce handling and trading.
It is a one-stop marketing and product handling facility for agricultural producers (farmers) and distributors. It is a buying destination for major stores, fruits and vegetables specialists, caterers, and families.
The market master of Maluti Fresh Produce Market Nthako Supu says, with farmers now registered with the market, it has emerged that they lack vital knowledge of product grading.
Supu told theReporter that local farmers have a problem when it comes to both packaging and grading their products according to size and quality.
“For instance, we have had cases of smallholder potato farmers who transported potatoes from Semonkong to the market at Ha Tikoe, only to find that the potatoes are not classified according to size. They simply package small and large potatoes in a single bag, leaving market workers to do the proper packaging.
“We also get a lot of complaints from buyers who unwholesome potatoes are usually concealed below fresh-looking potatoes. We are faced with the task of going to out to different farmers to teach and train them on proper handling and packaging.
“Going forward, we are going to enforce standards to inform the desired quality of local farm products. For example, with potatoes, we want those without cuts, bruises, green patches or shoots; and those which are classified accordingly,” he said
He disclosed that the standards guidelines will be enforced soon.
Supu explained that local products differ from those from neighbouring South Africa in that Lesotho does not have standards that guide farmers on the quality of their products.
He pointed out that farmers need to learn to work together.
“Pricing is another sore point. The average price of a 10kg bag of potatoes is M55, but the farmers price them at up to M70.”
The chairperson of the Semonkong Potato Association Ralehloa Matsitsi says the area is best suited for potato farming because of the altitude, weather and soil quality.
Matsitsi said the association is in need of cleaning equipment and chemicals to ensure their potatoes are packaged and sold in the best possible quality.
“Our major challenge that affects our business as smallholder farmers is lack of coordination between us and the market.”