Can Sunflower attract block farmers?

Vol.4, Issue 5

Writes Tjonane Matla

We went through our archives and came across this article that we believe is still relevant to today’s situation.

Most of the market gains in sunflower this week were wiped out on Friday. Talk of China raising interest rates a second time to lessen inflation led to massive selling moving all markets lower. The oilseed market is especially sensitive to China. If the Chinese economy cools there are fears that imports of oilseeds and oils will slow from the torrid buying trend of the past several months. Some analysts predict that commodity prices will continue to fall. Yet fundamentals continue to be firm in the oilseed sector. If buyers jump in at this market break, it would appear that the rally can continue. Adding to the potential upside is increasing concern about South American weather conditions. The biggest question shall then be, with the recent sunflower shortages in the world market, can Basotho block farmers interpret and extrapolate the trend correctly? In a quest for my curiosity I interviewed two farmers namely Mr. Mosioa Lekomola, a block farmer from Mpharane Leribe and Mr. Mahala Molapo from Sebothoane in the Leribe district, though most of his contributions shall feature in our next issue.

Mr. Mosioua Lekomola commented that comparatively to last year where Temo – `Moho Mpharane under the Government of Lesotho block farming loan guarantee scheme managed to sell 161 tons of wheat to Lesotho Flour Mills, this year the farmers are faced with a situation where they must begin to count their losses now and implement their contingency strategies to get out of the foreseeable loss. The situation is caused by late rainfalls which were only realised recently instead of eight to ten weeks ago. As a matter of fact, Lekomola is one of the executives of Temo – `Moho Mpharane and he has been in Lesotho’s agricultural sector for a while. As a leader, he commented that for short term decision making, it shall not be proper to concentrate much on what is called the sunk costs of cultivating and planting wheat, but it is of paramount importance to consider negotiations with their financiers for another loan in planting sunflower and/or sugar beans of which if frost is realised mid-April 2011 they shall score, but if experienced in March 2011 then there is a probability of another loss.

According to Temo – `Moho, approximately 3000 acres planted wheat is at risk and they are currently considering diversifying 12 000 acres plus the 3000 acres (currently planted wheat) into sunflower and sugar beans as mentioned above. Lekomola further said that both products are sold raw for a good price and have an ever ready market. He however admitted that there is not much earnings from maize grains, but they as the association are not completely writing maize off as they have heavily invested into two 16 ton silos where they are currently stockpiling their maize grains, which shall be in good quality for a longer time as compared to stock piling in sacks, as it is a common way of storing grains in Lesotho.

According to Lekomola, Temo – `Moho has further diversified into value added processing where the building structure is completed. The association shall then mill their maize and sell as a value added /processed product. He said that such an investment shall increase the selling price of maize henceforth their profitability.

On the other hand Mr. Mahala Molapo in our telephonic interview commented that he is expecting not too good nor bad wheat harvest this year due to the shortage of rainfall.

Regarding interest in planting sunflower Mahala said he knows where his bread is buttered, therefore he has no interest in sunflower currently instead he is busy planting maize.

As the farmer was driving, our conversation was destructed however the Silo shall be visiting Mr. Molapo, with an intention to find out from him how he is not affected badly by lack of rainfall shortly after winter.  

The readers of the Silo shall remember that in an exclusive interview with Mr. Mahala Molapo on our vol. 1 no: 1, the top farmer commented that he makes most of his earnings from wheat as against maize but he mills his maize produce so much as to maximise the earnings. For more information on Mr. Mahala Molapo please pay a visit to www.thesilo.co.ls and browse Mahala the top farmer, vol. 1 no: 1.

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