Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Limited (Cottco) has completed ground breaking field trials for hybrid seed from India in collaboration with Quton Seed Company that is projected to earn the country over US$2 billion in foreign currency.
The hybrid seed is expected to address challenges of low yield in the cotton sector.
According to the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report, the national average yield of cotton last season stood at 0,35 tonnes per hectare.
Cotton is important because of its contribution to the textile industry, edible oil and stock feed manufacturing companies.
It also brings in the much needed foreign currency.
To boost productivity, Cottco will this season supply inputs to commercial farmers with irrigation facilities.
Addressing members of the corporate world and academia during the Business Weekly Midlands Devolution breakfast meeting in Gweru last week, Cottco managing director, Mr Pious Manamike said the hybrid seed can yield a minimum of 80 balls per plant weighing five kilogrammes.
He said a plant population of at least 30 000 per hectare will achieve a yield of 12 tonnes per hectare.
“Cottco has completed field trials for hybrid seed from India in collaboration with Quton Seed Company,” said Mr Manamike. “With all the farmers on this seed, the country can earn over US$2 billion in foreign currency.
“The company is working on a phased three-year programme to get the bulk of the farmers to grow the seed. This requires considerable investment in new ginneries at community level.”
Cottco is managing the free Presidential Cotton Input Scheme, a scheme put in place to revive cotton production on behalf of Government. The scheme, he said, is benefiting at least 400 000 households and touching the livelihoods of at least two million people in support of the Government’s poverty alleviation strategy.
“The Presidential Scheme is also benefiting many stakeholders in the value chain, including the textile industry, cooking oil industry, transport and local authorities,” said Mr Manamike.
He said since the establishment of the scheme, the national cotton output has increased from 28 000 tonnes in 2016 to 142 000 tonnes last year.
“Cottco’s output correspondingly rose from 10 800 tonnes in 2016 to 127 500 tonnes in 2018, translating to market shares of 36 percent and 90 percent respectively,” said Mr Manamike. “The company runs and operates six ginneries with a combined capacity of 130 000 tonnes. Employment levels peak at 4 500 during the season, while US$80 million was generated from exports and US$17 million saved on use of local seed.”
At the recent agro-business conference, some experts suggested that Government considers Biotech Cotton to boost productivity.
Government has not been willing to consider genetically modified crops due to environmental and health risks.