Martin Kadzere and Patrick Chitumba
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe has started engaging commercial farmers as it seeks to grow production of cotton, managing director Mr Pious Manamike said.
Currently, the majority of growers are small-scale, producing an average of a hectare.
Speaking during Midlands Provincial Devolution Conference organised by Business Weekly last Friday, Mr Manamike said the project has since started in the Mashonaland West Province and would soon be introduced to other provinces.
“We are also looking at increasing production not necessarily focusing on communal farmers. We are engaging commercial farmers . . . the A2 farmers to join in and produce cotton. This year, we are registering commercial farmers to produce cotton on a larger scale . . . five to 10 hectares. This project has already started in Mashonaland West and we want to ensure that we also bring it to Midlands,” he said.
Mr Manamike said there was need to increase cotton production in order to attract investment along the value chain.
“I also want to highlight that because of instability that we have at primary production level, we cannot at the moment attract investment in the value addition stage. So we need to underpin the supply of the raw materials so that we can attract required investment,” said Mr Manamike.
He said Midlands province used to produce 150 000 tonnes per year earning the province around US$90 million. Of the 400 000 farmers supported by Cottco, which is administering the Presidential Free Inputs Scheme, half of them are from Midlands.
“So we are pushing to get where the province and the nation used to be. We are (also) working to introduce cotton in areas around Kwekwe, Mvuma and Mberengwa,” he said.
Mr Manamike said the company had completed field trials for its new hybrid seed. He said the hybrid can yield a minimum of 80 balls per plant, from an average 24 balls.
“Cottco has completed field trials for hybrid seed from India in collaboration with Quton Seed Company. With all the farmers on this seed, the country could 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 grow the hybrid seed. This requires considerable investment in new ginneries at community level,” said Mr Manamike.
The Cottco MD also highlighted on various opportunities in the cotton value chain from the Midlands Province including increasing ginning capacity, setting up of edible oil and textile factories in areas such as Gokwe, where most of the cotton is grown.
The devolution conferences will be held in all the country’s 10 provinces, where various stakeholders including the Government, private sector, churches, academia, and civil society dialogue on the critical matters pertaining the implementation of devolution. The themes of the conferences will be centred around major economic activities or resource endowments in the specific provinces.
The Midlands conference was attended by senior Government officials including Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo, the host Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs Larry Mavhima and his counterpart Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Mary Mliswa, deputy minister for Mines and Mining Development Polite Kambamura and a senior director in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Speakers were also drawn from the country’s leading business organisations including the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, National Business Council of Zimbabwe and the Chamber of Mines.