Edgar Vhera-Agriculture Specialist Writer
WITH the 2022 cotton marketing season drawing to a close, statistics availed by the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) show that farmers had sold 46 million kilogrammes of seed cotton valued at over US$13, 8 million as of August 2, 2022.
In an interview recently, AMA chief executive officer Mr Clever Isaya said the cotton marketing season was progressing well with the country now expecting anything between 55 and 60 million kilogrammes.
“This season we were expecting 60 million kilogrammes of the white gold but the cotton industry has so far bought 46 million kilogrammes.
“We hope mop up sales will allow the figure to grow to the projected 60 million or slightly below,” said Mr Isaya.
Cotton Ginners Association (CGA) acting chairman, Mr Caos Nzenze concurred with Mr Isaya saying the whole cotton industry had bought over 60 percent of seed cotton produced last season.
“The cotton marketing season is going on well, though here and there we encountered some liquidity challenges.
Over 60 percent of seed cotton has been marketed,” said Mr Nzenze.
He, however, decried the delay in getting export permits from Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development saying they were affecting their business operations and hamstringing their loan repayments plan.
“Ginning is now in the third week, but we are now confronted with the challenge of getting permits to enable us to export cotton lint to our consignees. Ministry of Industry is delaying in writing a letter of support that allows Ministry of Agriculture to issue us with export permits.
“We have since engaged AMA who are in talks with the relevant Government departments to speed up the process.
“Exporting cotton lint will enable the merchants to settle loans early, as they are accruing interests on borrowed funds due to late marketing of the cotton lint,” continued Mr Nzenze.
Asked for a position on availing of lint to local players, Mr Nzenze said highlighted that local spinners did not have sufficient foreign currency for lint purchases forcing them to export.
The country’s largest cotton contractor, Cottco had by close of business on the 02 f August bought 43 million kilogrammes of seed cotton and are looking forward to purchase 55 million kilogrammes this marketing season.
Cottco acting chief accounting officer Mr Munyaradzi Chikasha also revealed that they were facing liquidity challenges for the foreign currency component to pay farmers on the spot but added that they were still making payments within seven days of delivery.
“We are facing US dollar liquidity challenges although we are getting reasonable allocations from our bank every week.
“Farmers upon delivery of their cotton are receiving their dues within seven days with priority being given to those who would have delivered first. We are hopeful that the seven-day waiting period will be reduced as deliveries have now slowed down in some areas,” said Mr Chikasha.
Mr Chikasha further observed that ginning had commenced in Muzarabani, Sanyati, Kadoma and Chiredzi with Gokwe scheduled to start this week.
He said Cottco had not yet started lint exports but would start this month if they got their export permit from Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, as it was taking long to get support letters required in the export licencing arrangement.
Cottco is also planning to ensure that local ginning companies get enough material for their 2022 ginning requirements.
The country is expecting low seed cotton volumes compared to the past season, as a result of the late start of the cotton growing season due to late rains, as well as early dropping of temperatures that resulted in some balls failing to fully develop.
Last year the country produced 138 million kilogrammes of seed cotton with this year’s envisaged 60 million kilogrammes representing a 56 percent drop in production.
Stakeholders have since indicated that they foresee an increase in cotton production in the forthcoming 2022/23 cropping season following the Government’s timely intervention with lucrative cotton prices and the classification of cotton as an export crop this season.
Cotton is mostly grown under contract arrangements in Zimbabwe with ginners providing inputs and buying the produced seed cotton. The Government through Cottco is the main contractor accounting for more than 85 percent of all cotton production.
Zimbabwe seed cotton mainly produced by smallholder communal farmers with small plots ranging from half a hectare to five hectares, is the most sought after globally, as it is hand-picked with minimal contamination thereby maintaining good quality standards.
Cotton remains the most viable drought tolerant crop to grow in marginal rainfall areas under Natural Regions 3, 4 and 5.
The provision of free inputs under the Presidential Input Programme coupled with considerable knowledge and experience act as incentives in cotton production.