The Thamae family is today known for producing Lesotho’s rst wine which also ranked top 5 in Groot Parys Blind Tasting
(published in Vol 5 No. 2 of February 2014). Here is an extract from Vol 3 No. 13 of August 2012 where they share their journey from the beginning
By: Tjonane Matla
The Machache region has been notorious for various commercial agricultural activities. It is therefore not surprising that the Thamae brothers have partnered with their father in the quest to make millions out of citrus fruit sales and sale of seedlings. When the Silo got an invitation from Mothiba Thamae (29) at a farmers meeting held in Masianokeng two weeks earlier, the Silo Editor – Tjonane Matla was impressed but was further shocked by the quality of work and annual turnover of the estate named Masapong Nursery.
We are therefore pleased to publish our interview with Phatela Thamae (53) and his son Mothiba who holds a Diploma in General Agriculture. Kananelo (26) is as well part of the business and a third year student in Philosophy and Public Ethics at the National University of Lesotho, he had just left the farm when we went for an interview, but we found him working at the farm a week later.
“The project started in 1998 after my father received training from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Land Reclamation, my father left the South African mines in 1979, ever since that era, he had been farming, selling and distributing vegetables with his van, until 1998 when he ventured in to citrus trees.” Says Mothiba Thamae when introducing us to the project and his beloved father and business partner.
“In 1998, the Government of Lesotho sent agricultural field officer who requested to work with me on what might have been a pilot project, they requested for my field’s soil samples and later invited me for training in citrus trees. I have been trained in Lesotho and South Africa by the Government of Lesotho which even contributed in starting up this orchard by giving 100 grape trees. In 2008 I went to Cape – Town to purchase the wine grape seedlings myself as I want to produce white wine in future” Narrated Phatela Thamae.
As we explained earlier, the farm produces various types of grape from black, red and white. It must also be noted that the variety ranges from hand with and without seedlings to white wine grape with seeds. Furthermore their preaches ripping period range from November until May, while they also have apples red, yellow and green that ripe January until April. The family estate also has two types of pear trees that ripe in March namely Phackam’s and Boncristion. According to Masapong directors, their sales revenue ratio is 80:20 seedlings to fruit trees respectively, and their main customer for seedlings is the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation while the local street vendors are their clients as far as selling of fruit is concerned.
Stock of Masapong citrus trees
Challenges of Masapong estate
- Frost and hail as their farm is not protected.
- High cost of labour leading to slow progress in the project as there are only three full time employees, which is the Thamae family. There are also 6 trained casual labour that is paid M30/day.
- Hiring cheaper labour compromises quality.
- Limited space and inaccessibility to and for expansion.
Special questions to the Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation
- Why have you not paid us a visit? (According to the Thamaes the last Minister to pay them a visit was Dr. Phororo while Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Land Reclamation and that was before the establishment of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation)
- Why is it that the Ministry of Forestry never gives us annual production targets to meet their demand? (According to Masapong Nursery, the Ministry of Forestry has to place an order a year in advance for production planning purposes. They highly criticized the Government of Lesotho for not being consistent and lack of planning. They said that if the government could place orders a year in advance they will surely know how much to produce for the government and how much to produce for private clients. What pains them is to see the government taking all their stock, not even leaving the Purchase Order, with hope that they shall later be paid. But far more than that, they are very jealous that the Government of Lesotho when they have not produced much, rushes to South African Farmers to purchase what they could have bought from them as local producers)