Cotton exports record 204pc surge Zimbabwe Textiles Manufacturers Association (ZTMA) chairman Mr Admire Masenda said there was need for the country to go back to basics and revive production of Grade A cotton lint.

Edgar Vhera-Agriculture Specialist Writer

Cotton product export earnings have skyrocketed by 204 percent from US$4 million in the period January to March 2023 to US$12 million in the comparable period this year.

This has prompted stakeholders to stress on the need to ramp up production to ensure high-quality crop yields.

First quarter statistics released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) show that cotton product exports rose to 204 percent from US$3 951 663 to US$11 876 665. 

Among the cotton products exported are cotton not carded or combed, cotton linters, seeds and yarn, bleached, unbleached, dyed and printed woven fabrics of cotton, men’s or boy’s shirts of cotton, refined cotton seed oil and fractions as well as oil cake and other solid residues of cotton seeds.

Because of the positive influence of value addition, average prices received for the various cotton products exported show that low prices were recorded for raw cotton not carded or combed while high prices were received for shirts.

Not carded or combed cotton accounted for 90 percent of the products from the cotton sector, which means Zimbabwe could have benefited immensely if it was value added before being exported. The country could have also avoided exporting jobs and stimulated rural development.

Zimbabwe Textiles Manufacturers Association (ZTMA) chairman Mr Admire Masenda said there was need for the country to go back to basics and revive production of Grade A cotton lint.

Cotton graded into grade A 

“The whole cotton value chain needs to ensure that the country goes to its good old times where quality cotton was produced instead of the Grades C and D currently dominating. 

“High paying quality shirts are made from A and B Grades, with C and D used for T2 twine and mutton cloth,” he said.

2022 seed cotton grades: AMA

Mr Masenda observed that Zimbabwe used to get a premium of US$0,06 per kilogramme above the ruling international index price. Currently top American cotton is receiving a premium of 9 US cents.” 

He said the country needed to go back to the basics and ensure that farmers are motivated to produce quality crop.

“Though the Government is setting good producer prices, farmers are being let down by not being paid on time – sometimes getting payments after two years. A quality crop will allow us to produce yarn with fine counts to make shirt material and that’s where the money is.” 

Mr Masenda said  Zimbabwe should be focussing on the linen and towels market, which is currently being dominated by Egypt. 

“We used to export our high value towels to South Africa. They are a low hanging fruit we should target and specialise in,” the ZTMA chair said.

Provision of cheap capital for expansion and refurbishment of infrastructure and equipment is critical to resuscitate the cotton industry.  

Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union (ZTWU) secretary-general Mr Norman Makono concurred ,saying the export of raw cotton was not helping the nation at all but suffocating the growth of the clothing and textile industry.

Cotton value chain actor

“At its peak, the country’s formal textile sector used to employ 24 000 people but since 2010, the figure has whittled down to 11 600, a reduction of about 12 400. 

Company numbers were also reduced over this same period due to closures and retrenchment. Employment figures within the textile industry have since dropped to 3 500 currently,” said Mr Makono. 

The industry was affected by macro-economic factors such as water, energy, high transport costs, shortage of raw material (cotton lint included) which led to insufficient supply and costly utility supplies. Imports of sub-standard and second-hand cheap clothing products further left the industry on its death bed.    

The Government introduced a grade-based differential seed cotton pricing system for the 2023 cotton marketing season to promote the production of quality cotton following an outcry from clothing and textile industries at the inaugural World Cotton Day in 2022 on the poor quality cotton farmers are producing. 

In 2023, Grade A seed cotton was bought at US$0, 46 per kilogramme while grade B fetched US$0, 43. Grade C seed received US$0, 41 with grade D sitting at US$0, 40.

Negotiations for the 2024 cotton marketing season’s price are currently going on with the marketing season scheduled to start on June 1.

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