Govt to distribute cotton inputs

cottonfield1mchTHE Government will be distributing free cotton inputs for the next three cropping seasons in order to encourage farmers to grow the crop, a cabinet Minister said last Thursday. Presenting the 2016 National Budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Government had unveiled a support scheme for cotton inputs valued at US$25,8 million, targeting to put 250 000 hectares under the crop this cropping season.

A total of one million cotton growers are set to benefit from the scheme, with each farmer receiving a package covering a quarter of a hectare. In that regard, a total of 2 156 tonnes of seed cotton has already been dispatched to growers.

At least 255 000 ha will be supported under private cotton contract farming, with 157 500 growers expected to benefit from this arrangement. “Over and above the restructuring of Cottco, Government will also be giving free cotton inputs to cotton farmers for the next three seasons in order to encourage cotton production,” said Minister Chinamasa.

He said the Government recognised the importance of reviving cotton production, given the significant agro-linkages with the textile industry, and involvement of over 300 000 smallholder farmers.

Cotton production, at its peak, was the major source of incomes and livelihood for rural communities around the Gokwe, Sanyati, Rushinga and Checheche areas, accounting for close to a fifth of agricultural exports.

The numerous challenges facing the sector resulted in output declining from peak levels of 353 000 metric tons in 2000/01 to 136 000 tonnes the past season. In the 2015 cotton marketing season, the crop size further declined to 102 000 tonnes.

Other factors undermining cotton production include decline in international prices, also against the background of competition from such substitutes as synthetic fibres. The decline in output is notwithstanding the installed ginnery capacity of 427 000 tonnes of seed cotton. — New Ziana

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