The EU Ambassador Christian Mcdul
Writes; Tshepo Heqoa
The country of Lesotho through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security officially launched an SPS Border Inspection on the 10th January 2019 at the Department of Agricultural Research centre as a way to sensitize relevant stakeholders about the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement issues. This was accompanied by the declaration of the phytosanitary border inspectors who should facilitate the movement of agricultural products in and out of Lesotho.
They will inspect the goods for import for the reason of protecting Lesotho’s alpine biodiversity from diseases, and foreign pests as well as export goods for the sake of the same standards and measures agreed upon in the SPS. To that effect Lesotho requested assistance from the European Union (EU), through the Trade Related Facility Project, whose objective is to improve controls on Trade related commodities; Food Safety, Plants and Animal pests, with the objective of boosting agricultural productivity and trade in Southern Africa. This SPS component of the project entails, among others, the engagement of Phytosanitary Border Inspection and Capacity for the Diagnostic laboratories. Present were the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Malefetsane Nchaka, as well as the Deputy Principal Secretary, The EU Ambassador Mr Christian Mcdul and Heads of Parastatals and Private Institutions.
Mr Sekhonyana Mahase, the Chief Crop Production Officer in the Department of Crop Services shared with the floor the importance of the SPS and showed its application in the protection of human, animal and plant life. He indicated that whereas the SPS measures are governed by the WTO to safeguard the smooth and safe trade, all the member states of the WTO cooperate therein. With respect to the emphasis of the rules, he further reiterated that food is required to come from a pest or disease free area with the permission of only certain kinds of additives in it. The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement was said to apply to domestically produced food which are often animal and plant products. In conclusion, the stakeholders were made aware that the measures taken were for the protection of the Plant , animal and human health.The SPS is very important for the private sector, because it gives an opportunity to enter the international market. The Head of Plant Protection and Quarantine Section at the Department of Agricultural Research, Mr Motlatsi Molatela shared the procedure of obtaining the SPS certificate.
Molatela is one of the few civil servants that is entrusted with ensuring that plant products and other regulated articles are protected against pests and diseases. He said, “Our burden is to ascertain the availability of certain services that are needed and those include the issuance of certificates for the export and the issuance of plant import permits for people importing plant materials. For export products, we do have quite a number of products that penetrate the market of EU which many people may not be familiar with. The actual support that has put us here emanates from the support that has been given by the European Union through the project called the Trade Related Facility. We are not given the support because of being an agricultural sector, but because we make sure that the agricultural products trade smoothly across the globe, so that’s why we are taking part.”
Mpho Lebeta- the brand ambassador for Lesotho Milling Company in Maputsoe expounded more on the significance of SPS as the company specializes in maize and wheat products. The greatest problem that they face is the poor grain that they get from Basotho because there are no controls or inspections of plants that find their way into the country. This she said affects the local market as it becomes hard to fully depend on the produce of Basotho Boipuso Adonts’i from Shoprite also presented the challenges that Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay and other supermarkets face in the country. These included the sustainability of the Basotho products as well as the absence of custom inspectors after working hours including weekends which make trade very hard for them. Of truth, history shows the significance of crop protection as was witnessed by Ireland and later other states between the years 1845 to 1849. This period was called the Great Famine or the Great Hunger that resulted from the potato blight. During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. True as it is that many reasons led to this famine but they all had a common factor which was the lack of Sanitary and Phytosanitary in the agriculture sector.
Department Representatives from the public and