Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
MOST cotton farmers have started delivering their harvested crop to common buying points ahead of the 2018 selling season expected to start next week. Following the rebound last season, output is expected to be “significantly higher” this year compared to 74 000 tonnes delivered last year, the Cotton Producers and Marketers Association has said.
“Farmers have started delivering their produce to buying points and from our preliminary assessment, the quality is better because we had favourable weather conditions while output will be higher compared with last season although we can not disclose the figures at the moment,” CPMA secretary Steward Mubonderi said.
He said cotton companies to provide standard picking packs to farmers to preserve good crop quality while urging farmers to desist from the practice of marketing.
Zimbabwe’s cotton industry had virtually collapsed when production declined to 28 000 tonnes by 2015, the lowest in more than two decades after farmers abandoned the crop due to low producer prices. But thanks to the Government’s intervention, production has rebounded with farmers taking up cotton farming again.
The entire cotton industry value chain had been locked in a vicious race towards collapse. Inadequate levels of inputs and poor agronomic support led to low yields and subsequently high side-marketing of the contracted crop.
Last year, the Government, through The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe supported close to 400 000 small scale farmers under the Presidential Free Inputs Scheme.
The inputs package was made up of 8 000 tonnes of seed, 40 000 tonnes of basal fertiliser and 20 000 tonnes of top dressing fertliser. The farmers were also given chemicals.
“Now that the season is about to start, we urge the Government to announce the producer price so that our farmers can start to work on their budgets,” said Mr Mubonderi.
Cotton farmers in Chiredzi who spoke to The Herald last week were confident that their commodity would fetch better prices this season. “The quality of our crop is good,” Fellistas Mugwagwa of Village 6 in Mukwazi area, Chiredzi said. “The distribution of inputs improved last season and the yields will also be higher.”
Another farmer Brighton Mutore said he had already started delivering his crop to buying points ahead of the selling season. Farmers in Nuanetsi Ranch told this newspaper that the quality of the crop “was better” and were hoping to achieve higher grades.
Cottco business manager for the lowveld business unit Marjorie Chaniwa said preparations for the selling season were well advanced.
“We have done everything to start to start buying,” said Ms Chaniwa. “We have identified the buying points and the Agriculture and Marketing Authority has approved them.
“The preliminary indications show that output for this season will be higher and the crop quality will be better than last season’s because we had no challenges with pests.”
Mr Mubonderi said the CPMA had been conducting awareness campaigns to encourage farmers to embrace payments through mobile platforms such as EcoCash. But he appealed to police to rein in on unscrupulous businesses charging premiums on payments made using mobile money. He also urged other mobile networks to roll out mobile payment platforms to rural arrears to encourage competition.