Obert Chifamba Senior Agriculture Reporter
COTTON farmers have insisted that they will hold on to their crop until both the Government and ginners avail cash and better prices. Farmers were treating the buyers with suspicion. “Government’s
proposal will not work as they have set a very bad precedent by failing to pay maize and wheat farmers. Where is the money coming from this time when they have been broke all along? asked Centenary farmer Mr Edward Raradza.
“There is no better option at the moment. The ginners are offering very unviable prices so the best is to hold on to the crop until fresh negotiations yield better results or when we know Government has the money.”
Mr Raradza said he was aware ginners needed to recover the money they invested in the crop when they contracted farmers but they must not use international prices to arm twist farmers into releasing the cotton for a song.
“Farmers are not producing the crop under the same conditions. In countries where governments offer subsidies, contractors honour their part of the deal in totality and give the farmers all the support they need, which is not happening here,” he said.
Another farmer from Mashonaland West Mr Berean Mukwende added that contractors were giving farmers just a bag of fertiliser, a few chemicals and seed but still
expected them to produce sustainably.
“Under normal circumstances a farmer needs at least four bags of fertiliser per hectare. Some commercial producers have even started applying as much as eight bags per hectare and surprisingly the ginners want everything the farmer produces,” said Mr Mukwende.
He said farmers were at the moment the battleground taking the brunt from the fighting between Government and the ginners. Both buyers want the farmers to deliver cotton to them, he said, but did not realise that the farmer needed some cash injection to engage labour for picking the crop.
“Most farmers are wary of Government as they have seen what happened to those who sold maize or wheat while they also cannot take what the ginners are putting on the table,” he said.
“If Government has instant cash then we will gladly sell our crops to it and later go and settle our debts with the contractors.
“We are not worried about who buys our cotton. What we want are prices that are reasonable, that’s all.”
Mr Mukwende lamented the demise of the then Cotton Marketing Board that he said used to give farmers a very fair deal and even later followed up with supplementary payments.
A Checheche farmer who refused to be named said Government needed to constantly monitor farmers and ginners’ contracts and should be involved in ensuring that both parties got their dues.
“At the moment ginners are fleecing us. They buy cotton at very low prices before they send it for ginning where they separate lint from seed.
“They later express oil from the seed and sell it. They also produce cotton cake for livestock feeds while they also sell the lint.
“A tonne of cotton cake sells for US$1 500. These are extra benefits that merchants are making yet they would have bought the cotton for very little.
“Government’s latest proposal is good provided they have the cash and can pay in time so that we do not repeat what grain farmers are going through,” said the farmer.
Cotton merchants and farmers have been engaged in protracted price negotiations that have until now failed to yield results.
Merchants were offering between 36 cents and 50 cents for a kilogramme of the white gold yet farmers wanted something between 75 cents and US$1,20 for a kilogramme.