Address by ITC Executive Director at the launch and handover ceremony of the market centre
9 March 2018
Maseru - Lesotho
The Right Honourable, Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane,
Honourable Tefo Mapesela, Minister of Trade and Industry,
Honourable Chalane Phori, Minister of Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing,
Honourable Mahala Molapo, Minister of Agriculture and Food
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is my first official visit to the Kingdom of Lesotho as Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC). I am pleased to be here in Maseru to officially handover to the Lesotho Government a state of-the-art horticultural Market Centre. The new centre will offer processing and cold storage facilities. It promises to better link farmers to markets within the region and beyond. More significantly, by reducing the number of intermediaries between farms and end-consumers, it offers farmers the prospect of higher and more predictable incomes.
This Centre is one piece in a larger initiative financed by the Enhanced Integrated Framework to create value addition opportunities for the agriculture sector in Lesotho.
The Agriculture Productivity and Trade Development initiative is a smart investment. It has enhanced productive capacities in the agriculture sector and is creating new trade opportunities in the domestic market but also in larger markets in the region and elsewhere. ITC is very pleased to be your partner. We believe that together, we have increased the sector’s export potential. This initiative is a stepping-stone to Lesotho’s plan to invest in agro-processing, as mentioned in the recent budget speech by the Lesotho government. It will be essential to the drive in diversification, employment and value addition.
Allow me also to thank, and to commend, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security for their cooperation during the five-years of implementation. Without their close cooperation, we could not have had produced the results you are witnessing today. I am confident that they will continue to work together to meet your expectations, respond to the priorities of farmers, and deliver sustainable long–term gains for Lesotho’s agriculture sector. Ownership - at the country level, at the government level, and at the farmers’ level - is imperative to make this initiative scalable and impactful. Coordination between all stakeholders in the government and the private sector will be essential in making the horticultural value chain work efficiently from farm to fork.
Working with farmers and smallholder producers to make agriculture work for the most vulnerable is the challenge that ITC helped you address through this project. We have to show people - especially the youth - that agriculture is an income-generating occupation that is worth investing in. We have to open up opportunities for job creation for youth through competitive agricultural value chains and food processing. We have to ‘make agriculture cool again’. ITC will be working to do just this at our flagship event, the World Export Development Forum, this September in Zambia, where agro-processing will be at the heart of our curated business-to-business meetings with buyers from around the world. We urge companies from Lesotho to join us to share experiences, discuss best practices, and strike deals.
I am pleased to see that the technical support to smallholder producers and government institutions has already helped increase productive capacities in fresh fruits and vegetables, and spurred access to high-quality support services. I am told that the farmers have a name for the greenhouses set up through the project: they call them ‘money houses’. And this is just the beginning.
In an increasingly competitive agricultural market, and with growing demand, this Market Centre, as a collective post-harvest facility, will help link the production to markets, and play an integral role in the commercialization of agricultural products in Lesotho.
For a landlocked least developed country like Lesotho, efficient trade infrastructure is especially important. In the horticultural sector, warehousing and cold storage are key elements in the harvesting, preservation and distribution of fresh produce. Without them, export-oriented value chains cannot function effectively.
When farmers have ready access to cold storage and warehousing, it reduces post-harvest food waste, which the FAO estimates to be up to 40% of Sub-Saharan African production.
Reducing such waste would strengthen national food security and improve livelihoods for value chain actors, including those at the base of the pyramid, as advocated by the FAO African Union Champion, His Majesty King Letsie III.
Tapping into markets for carefully stored, well-packaged and efficiently dispatched agricultural products will contribute to the growth of the local economy, as we have seen happen in South Africa. Just next door, the Johannesburg and Bloemfontein Fresh Produce Markets are a one-stop-shop for fresh produce that aggregates the production of more than 5,000 farmers– representing over 80% of South African producers. The markets offer a wide variety of competitive fresh fruits and vegetables, on a daily basis, to about 10,000 retailers, exporters and hotels in the tourism industry.
These trade hubs have turned South Africa into a leading exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables across the SADC region, in the African continent and beyond.
This is our ambition for Lesotho. There is more than enough demand for multiple agro-trade hubs in the region. Our collective aim is to create a modern and competitive trading platform that empowers farmers while providing better access to Basotho fresh produce through value-added services. Critical here is the provision of information on products’ volumes, prices, quality requirements and delivery schedules as demanded by various market segments. And here, new technologies allow for the digitalization of the supply chain, yielding higher efficiency and the development of new ICT- enabled agriculture services.
The Market Centre is designed to absorb fresh produce from orchards and villages across Lesotho. The challenge will be to operate it in ways that foster the productivity of the horticulture value chain, lower trade costs, create more value for both producers and buyers and maximise the sector’s contribution to inclusive and sustainable development in Lesotho. This will require all institutional players, from growers, cooperatives, and canneries to the Market Centre, hotels, supermarkets and transport providers, to be linked in a business model approach.
I want to conclude my remarks by thanking the funders, the development partners, the EIF Secretariat and the UNDP as donor coordinator, for supporting Lesotho in its efforts to integrate into regional markets.
I wish you plenty of success and reaffirm ITC’s commitment to accompany you on this journey.
Thank you! Ke a leboha!