Outcry over surge in food prices

Outcry over surge in food prices
Outcry over surge in food prices

Africa-Press – Lesotho. OPPOSITION parties in parliament this week urged the government to introduce subsidies after a surge in the cost of basic foodstuffs. They said the cost of living in Lesotho is steadily becoming unbearable.

An 80kg bag of mealie-meal now costs a staggering M609, up from M500 last month while a 50kg bag of maize-meal now costs M410, up from M380. A 25kg bag of maize-meal now costs M225, up from M190 while a 12.5kg bag has moved from M120 to M128.

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu, who is also the Leader of Opposition in parliament, tweeted on his official account urging the government to intervene.

“Could the government of the rich people be seen sympathizing with the poor people,” Mokhothu said, referring to the government of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) which is led by the country’s business tycoons.

Mokhothu said apart from the high food and fuel prices coupled with high students’ fees, life keeps on getting harder for the poor. The Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, pleaded with the government to subsidize the cost of food to cushion the poor.

He wrote a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Tlohang Sekhamane on Monday asking him to stop all business in parliament and focus on the issue of soaring prices.

Adv Rakuoane argued that there has been a hike in the price of maize-meal price since the harvest season. He said this is abnormal because maize-meal prices usually go down during the harvesting season.

He said the government has not yet published its strategies or declared a state of emergency. Adv Rakuoane said the continuing war between Ukraine and Russia seems to be worsening the situation that was already volatile.

“Hunger is spreading to the extent that people go to sleep and wake up without anything in their stomachs,” he said.

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader Professor Nqosa Mahao told a press conference on Tuesday that the price hikes are getting out of hand. He called on the government to intervene.

He said poor people’s lives are getting harder and harder every time. Prof Mahao said the price hikes would affect Basotho negatively because paraffin and other essentials used by poor people have also gone up.

He said the staple food of Basotho is now becoming expensive to the extent that some people cannot afford it. “The cost will be heavier on Basotho as the village shops would want to add their transportation costs,” Prof Mahao said.

He said taxi operators were likely to demand a fare hike soon. Prof Mahao said even the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) has increased its prime lending interest rate making it harder for people to take loans.

The prime lending interest rate has ballooned from seven percent to 10.5 percent, meaning the commercial banks will also raise their interest rate which is estimated to be at 17 percent.

Both Blue Ribbon Foods, the country’s largest bakery, and Lesotho Flour Mills have already increased prices with effect from December 1. In their new price lists, Blue Ribbon Foods said they will add M1 to all their bread range, taking the price of a loaf of bread to M15 in villages outside the city and M14 within Maseru.

In hard-to-reach rural areas a loaf of bread is likely to cost about M18. The two companies said the industry is facing relentless challenges relating to raw material availability and unprecedented inflation.

The Lesotho Flour Mills’ new prices have been effective from November 14. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Limpho Tau said they are looking into the matter. Finance Minister Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane is set to present her mid-term budget tomorrow.

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