Lesotho farmers in dilemma: Bumper wheat crop goes to waste

By Majara Molupe

MASERU- WHEAT farmers are facing a serious challenge because their produce (wheat) is germinating in the fields because of the pouring rains in some parts of the country, The Southern Times can reveal.

Farmers who have entered into block farming with the government and the individual farmers are facing the same challenge.The farmers told this paper that they have since waited for the combine-harvesters since November last year to harvest their produce but to no avail.

“We have been waiting for the combine harvesters to harvest our produce from the fields but to date they have not come. Our wheat gets wasted and germinate in our fields because no machines to harvest it,” said Ishmael Moabi, one of the concerned farmers.

He further indicated that the government realised that many farmers have planted wheat last year and should have made plans to ensure that once the produce is ready it should be harvested.

The senior crop production officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Sekhonyana Mahase, said they are aware of the dilemma faced by the wheat farmers.

He said in 2016 many farmers planted wheat because of rains that fell following a devastating El Nino-induced drought that struck the country in 2015.Mahase reiterated that about 16,000 hectares of land was put under wheat last year, a record for the country that under normal circumstances plants wheat on just 3,000 hectares of land.He said his staff works over time to ensure that all the wheat is harvested and that the whole country has just 16 combine harvesters.He said another challenge is that the pouring rains also add problems because they make it difficult for the combine harvesters to move because they bog down in the fields.

Mahase pointed out that they advised farmers to plant wheat on time so that when rains come for summer cropping, their wheat should be ready for harvest.“Some farmers could not listen to us and planted wheat after the stipulated time. It is another reason why we are failing to help all the farmers,” he said.He further told this paper that the wheat that they have already harvested has been rejected by the Lesotho Flour Mills because it is in bad state.

“This, therefore, means that we are going to run short of wheat this year,” said Mahase.

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