Lesotho spends M69 mil­lion on bot­tled wa­ter im­ports

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO spends es­ti­mated M69 mil­lion on bot­tled wa­ter im­ports an­nu­ally, the Min­istry of Small Busi­ness has said. The sit­u­a­tion is largely caused by the lo­cal wa­ter bot­tlers’ lack of stan­dard­i­s­a­tion mech­a­nisms and in­fra­struc­ture which has re­sulted in the lo­cal re­tail­ers im­port­ing their wa­ter.

How­ever, the Min­istry of Trade says it is ea­ger to over­turn this sit­u­a­tion through the de­vel­op­ment of a wa­ter stan­dard to strengthen lo­cal pro­duc­tion.

Trade Min­is­ter Tefo Mape­sela on Mon­day met wa­ter bot­tling com­pa­nies for a di­a­logue to de­lib­er­ate on per­ti­nent is­sues af­fect­ing the in­dus­try.

The meet­ing, was held at the Min­istry’s board­room in Maseru to dis­cuss among other is­sues, the lack of op­er­a­tional stan­dard­i­s­a­tion mech­a­nisms for the wa­ter bot­tling in­dus­try.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of the meet­ing, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing in the Min­istry of Small Busi­ness, Lekhooe Makhate, said the money spent on im­port­ing bot­tled wa­ter could boost the lo­cal bot­tling in­dus­try. He said this would also in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties for job cre­ation.

“We es­ti­mate that Lesotho im­ports bot­tled wa­ter val­ued at M69 mil­lion per year. How­ever, we are yet to find out how much is pro­duced lo­cally,” Mr Makhate said adding the wa­ter im­ports play a part in erod­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy.

Ad­dress­ing the meet­ing, Mr Mape­sela ex­pressed con­cern that de­spite the coun­try’s abun­dant wa­ter sources, lo­cal en­trepreneurs have still not taken full ad­van­tage of the avail­able lo­cal and for­eign mar­kets.

The min­is­ter in­vited wa­ter bot­tlers in the on­go­ing process of adopt­ing an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard for pro­duc­tion of wa­ter to en­sure the health of con­sumers is guar­an­teed. Mr Mape­sela said there was also a need to strengthen value chains in the wa­ter bot­tling in­dus­try to en­sure max­i­mum im­pact on the coun­try’s econ­omy.

“We need to en­sure that wa­ter bot­tles, caps and stick­ers are man­u­fac­tured in the coun­try so that as we can cre­ate more jobs,” Mr Mape­sela said.

The project man­ager of the Pri­vate Sec­tor Com­pet­i­tive­ness and Eco­nomic Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion Project (PSCEDP), Chaba Mokuku, said the African De­vel­op­ment Bank (AFDB) is as­sist­ing the gov­ern­ment to de­velop a busi­ness model for the Lesotho Stan­dards In­sti­tu­tion.

He said the AFDB’S Eco­nomic Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion Sup­port Project (EDSP) is also as­sist­ing the gov­ern­ment to come up with a strate­gic plan and a time­bound im­ple­men­ta­tion roadmap for the pro­posed In­sti­tu­tion. The EDSP is housed un­der the PSCEDP. Mr Mokuku said the gov­ern­ment has re­solved to adopt an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard (Global GAP) which was adopted to cer­tify lo­cal pro­duc­tion of fruits in Ma­hobong in the ab­sence of a func­tional LSI.

“The adop­tion of an in­ter­na­tional wa­ter stan­dard is an in­terim de­ci­sion that has been taken while the LSI is still be­ing de­vel­oped,” he said. He added that it was dan­ger­ous to con­sume wa­ter that has not been cer­ti­fied for safe con­sump­tion.

He said the process of cer­ti­fy­ing pro­duc­ers through the min­istry, would as­sess the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the wa­ter and the pro­duc­tion sys­tems to en­sure the qual­ity of the fin­ished prod­uct.

Mean­while, the chair­per­son of Wa­ter Bot­tling Fed­er­a­tion of Lesotho (WBFL) Nt­sie Maphathe says he be­lieves the de­vel­op­ments will un­lock mar­kets for lo­cal pro­duc­ers to sup­port the wa­ter sec­tor is long over­due.

“We have been call­ing for wa­ter stan­dards for a long time and we ap­pre­ci­ate that fi­nally some­thing is be­ing done by the Min­istry of Trade,” said Mr Maphathe.

“We be­lieve it is time for the coun­try to take ad­van­tage and de­velop re­sources where we have a com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage.”

He said if wa­ter bot­tling is han­dled well, it has the po­ten­tial to im­prove Lesotho’s in­ter­na­tional trade pro­file.

“The ad­van­tage that the stan­dard would give to lo­cal pro­duc­ers is that we will be able to com­pete with other coun­tries in the mar­ket. We will have a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to ex­port bot­tled wa­ter,” Mr Maphathe said.

“Lesotho has a good chance to do well in the ex­port mar­ket largely be­cause our wa­ter has a num­ber of min­er­als and nu­tri­ents that are es­sen­tial for good health. Our wa­ter is also rel­a­tively cleaner owing to the al­ti­tude of our coun­try. We want to see Lesotho de­vel­op­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a renowned pro­ducer of high qual­ity bot­tled wa­ter,” Mr Maphathe.

How­ever, the in­dus­try faces deterrent chal­lenges among them the long and te­dious process pro­duc­ers have to fol­low to se­cure a wa­ter source.

“For one to get per­mis­sion to ob­tain a spring or place to erect a bore­hole, one has to visit the min­istry of wa­ter af­fairs and the Depart­ment of en­vi­ron­ment in the Min­istry of Cul­ture and En­vi­ron­ment. One also has to visit the Min­istry of Health.

For her part, ‘Mam­makong Mokoma, from Phu­leng Nat­u­ral Still Wa­ter com­pany based in Leribe said they are still un­able to break into the for­mal re­tail mar­ket. She said of­ten multi­na­tional re­tail­ers re­fer then to man­agers based in South Africa. When they are en­ter­tained by lo­cal man­agers they are still asked whether they con­form to any pro­duc­tion stan­dards.

She said the in­dus­try also re­quires fully func­tional test­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries since to avoid the cur­rent sce­nario where they have to take their sam­ples to Bloem­fontein for test­ing.

WA­TER Bot­tling Fed­er­a­tion of Lesotho (WBFL) has wel­comed gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to de­velop wa­ter bot­tling stan­dards.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.