The new cotton hybrid varieties Cottco intends to introduce could catapult annual output to about 1,1 million tonnes, managing director Mr Pious Manamike said last week.
A research undertaken by Cottco last year — under drought conditions — showed each plant produced an average 120 balls, which translate into about 11 tonnes per hectare. With better conditions, the number of balls per plant can increase to about 150.
With the current open pollinated varieties, a plant can produce an average of 30 balls.
Mr Manamike said hybrid seed varieties would be a game changer in pursuit for industry growth, whose trickle down effects would positively impact on the entire economy.
Increased cotton production will result in improved investment in ginneries to enhance ginning capacity. It will also increase foreign currency generation for the country.
“Our best variety produces an average 30 cotton balls per plant. But the new variety has potential to produce between 80 and 150 balls per plant and some of farmers will start using it this year,” said Mr Manamike.
“The variety is a real game changer.”
Mr Manamike was addressing a stakeholder meeting in Pathway near the town of Kadoma.
“We greatly appreciate the work you are doing and we urge you to produce more. The new variety is projected to bring more foreign currency,” Mr Manamike added.
Speaking at the same meeting, Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa said the side marketing practice by errant cotton farmers was a betrayal to the Presidential Free Inputs Scheme which is helping nearly 400 000 farmers around the country.
“We strongly condemn those who sell their cotton to companies who have not supported production. You cannot receive free inputs through the Presidential scheme and then forward gains to other companies. By so doing, you put honest farmers at a disadvantage when for such reasons support may be withdrawn,” said the Minister.
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe is administering the scheme — introduced four years ago to revive cotton production which had fallen to record levels. Output plummeted to 28 000 tonnes in 2015, the lowest in nearly two decades due to a number of reasons including withdrawal of farmers who cited low prices and lack of support.
Since then, production has been on a rise and last year it reached about 142 000 tonnes.
Minister Mliswa also castigated farmers who abuse cotton inputs by way of selling or divert for other crops.
“We have also heard of the practice by others who, when given fertilisers and chemicals, they either resell or convert to other agricultural uses,” said the Minister.
“This unjustifiably leads to less than expected output and often translates to wastage.”
Minister Mliswa urged cotton farmers in Mashonaland West to produce more given that Cottco has three ginneries in the province — in Kadoma, Sanyati and Chinhoyi. Most of the ginneries had been closed down, but have since been resuscitated due to increased feedstock.
Cotton ginning involves separation of fibre from seed to produce lint which is exported. The seeds can be processed to produce edible oils and the cake for stock feeds.
Cotton Producers and Marketers’ Association national chairman Mr Steward Mubonderi attributed the practice of side marketing to lack of vision.
“With vision and set goals, you will definitely work hard to achieve. Before you plead for Government’s intervention which is often imminent, you have to consider your own efforts.
“The Government is often supportive but some end up selling the inputs because they lack vision,” he said.