THE country’s Covid-19 cases might be receding, but the pandemic’s disruptive tendencies have remained to haunt the cotton industry amid reports of wool pack shortages triggered by global trade and movement restrictions adopted at the height of the scourge.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association chairperson, Mr Stewart Mubonderi yesterday revealed that farmers had started delivering their 2021/22 crop on the backdrop of growing excitement generated by the new payment system of US$60 per 200kg bale payment accompanied by $6 500 in local currency.
Mr Mubonderi, however, said shortages of wool packs or bales that are imported from India and China were deflating the farmers’ zeal, which was most likely to stall deliveries prompting fears of some of the white gold losing quality or even getting destroyed due to poor storage conditions.
Incidentally, India and China are among countries that were hardest-hit by the pandemic.
“Many farmers are now keeping their produce at home where its storage safety cannot be guaranteed against a background of rising cases of crop produce being destroyed by fires or storage pests triggering huge losses for the farmers,” commented Mr Mubonderi.
He went on to challenge ginners to start ginning as a matter of urgency so that emptied bales can be returned into circulation and help alleviate the shortages.
“We call upon ginners to start ginning immediately if possible so that they free some of the bales they have in their possession and allow farmers to re-use them in the light of these shortages,” he said.
The farmers’ problems have also been further compounded by the fact that the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has deployed inadequate clerks to oversee the marketing of the white gold, which is robbing the selling process of the much-needed speed to allow farmers to start preparations for next season.
“There are instances when a single AMA clerk is expected to man three or four selling points. This has been happening at Mapondo, Muzambia, Mafuta and Chembada selling points in Raffingora, Mashonaland West. It is unfortunate that the single clerk is struggling to effectively cover the four spots, which is delaying the payment farmers, observed Mr Mubonderi.
He, however, highlighted that despite these setbacks the farmers were excited with the US$60 and $6 500 they are receiving per bale.
“There is always a hive of activity at growth points in all cotton producing areas as farmers spoil their families from their rich pickings.
“There is likely going to be a threefold increase in cotton production in the coming season as those farmers who had abandoned the crop look set to be coming back while new entrants will also come encouraged by crop’s current profitability,” said Mr Mubonderi.
AMA chief executive, Mr Clever Isaya responded saying there were 743 cotton buying points countrywide, 366 of which are permanent locations. This made it impossible to assign a clerk to every buying point, which explains the deployment of one clerk at two or three points.
Mr Isaya urged farmers to build up deliveries of their seed cotton at cotton buying points and mobile buying points to enable AMA and buyers to schedule the buying dates and speed up cash disbursements and save their time.
For the revised cotton prices, the implied producer price is US$0,39 per kg, that is, if the farmer was to receive all his cotton income in US dollars at the interbank rate of 370, 96 which is higher than the regional average that is around US$0,30 per kg.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya commended the new payment model in which farmers are getting paid on the spot.
He, however, urged selling points to have adequate cash meet farmers’ requirements citing an incident in Mt Darwin where farmers were told that cash had run out and were supposed to wait for replenishments describing it as unfortunate.
“This can dampen their spirits and evoke memories of the past years when payments came late or are still to come. Some farmers have not yet received payments for the 2020 season,” he said.