ZIMBABWE’S cotton farmers are targeting to produce more than 200 000 metric tonnes (mt) of white gold this year, riding on good rains and easier access to inputs.
This represents a 135% increase in output compared to the 85 000mt produced last year.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association national chairperson, Stewart Mubonderi told businessdigest this week that a target of 200 000 metric tonnes was achievable.
“We are targeting (to produce) over 200 000mt of cotton this year. That’s from a farmers’ perspective. With the good rains we have received so far and all the inputs being availed to farmers on time, it’s looking very good,” he said.
“We can jump from the 85 000 metric tonnes we had last year to 200 000mt this year. Germination this year has been excellent and there has been an increase in the number of farmers. Over 400 000 farmers have taken up cotton production this year,” Mubonderi said.
“The price that was announced this year is very attractive, $86 per kg, which is about US$1,20 per kg if we look at the current market rates. That’s a very attractive price to the farmer,” he added
Mubonderi said when farmers started planting this season, they already had about 75% of inputs required.
Last season the farmers started with 30% of their inputs.
Recently, farmers revealed that they were owed over $3 billion (about US$36 million) for produce delivered last season.
But Cottco board chairperson Sifelani Jabangwe said most of the farmers have been paid about 60% of what they were owed and they “are expecting the difference to be cleared before the new harvests come in.”
The State-run Cottco is among the biggest buyers of Zimbabwe’s cotton.
Cotton used to be the second largest foreign currency earner after tobacco but due to uncompetitive prices and high input costs, it lost the position.
These challenges have also seen cotton production declining over the years, prompting the government to intervene by rolling out free cotton inputs to about 400 000 households, through Cottco.
Output fell from 283 000 tonnes in 2012 to less than 200 000 tonnes by 2013 before it plunged to less than 200 000 tonnes in the three years that followed.
In 2019, production fell to about 76 000 tonnes.
In 2020, the government had set a target of 101 000 tonnes of cotton but only managed 85 000.
Regardless of these challenges, cotton remains an important source of livelihoods for most rural communities.
Mubonderi urged the new Cottco board to prioritise payment of farmers and availability of inputs on time to help boost production.
“The board must work with all stakeholders and consult. They should prioritise payment of farmers. You can’t talk about lint, cotton cake and about developing industries if the farmer is not happy. They should also prioritise the availability of inputs too,” he said.
He said the government should embrace genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties to boost production.
Government in 2006 banned the importation of all GM produce and the use of seeds enhanced with genetically-modified organisms, known as GMOs, arguing they were harmful to the soil and the environment.
African countries that have adopted GM crops include, among others, South Africa, Botswana and Malawi.
Ironically, Zimbabwe imports food from these countries