FARMERS have delivered 19 million kilograms of cotton since the start of the selling season, the Agriculture and Marketing Authority has said in its latest commodity bulletin. Seed cotton intake as at August 5 showed 18,9 million kg of the crop had been delivered, down from 48,9 kg during the same period last year.Industry players have already warned that this year’s crop size would decline to its lowest level in more than two decades due to the effects of drought and late disbursements of inputs.
Production is expected to be between 30 000 tonnes and 35 000 tonnes, down from 102 000 tonnes produced last year. This is despite free inputs disbursed by the Government last.
The inputs had the potential of producing 130 000 tonnes. “The crop size is going to be very low this year any buyers are competing for the little available crop,” said an official with a leading cotton company.
“This will be the worst harvest in 25 years. In 1992, Zimbabwe produced about 52 000 tonnes of cotton as a result of drought.
Cotton production peaked during 2011/2012 when farmers produced 353 million kg.
The sector used to support about 400 000 households, making it one of the biggest employer.
It is a major source of livelihood in communities such as Gokwe, Chiredzi and Muzarabani.
Most of the companies are paying an average price of 36c per kilogramme. While Cottco is paying 35c per kilogramme on the spot, the company is issuing promisory receipts to farmers indicating that it will adjust the price to 45c kg.
Cottco, which is buying the crop on behalf of the Government has bought about 7,1 million kg, followed by Olam (3,5 million kg), Grafax (2,4 million kg and Alliance Ginners at 2 million kilogrammes.
There was also a marked decline of cotton growers this season after many farmers abandoned the crop citing viability issues.
Farmer organisations have estimated the crop size may decline to around 75 000 tonnes compared to just above 100 000 tonnes produced last year.
The cotton industry was viable until early 2000 when it was opened up to a multitude of small companies, which wreaked havoc in the sector by inducing side marketing.
This created challenges with debt recovery, yield as well as poor operational efficiencies.