SEVERAL cotton farmers in Mashonaland Central Province have expressed satisfaction with this year’s crop, describing its condition as “extremely above average”.
In separate interviews, cotton growers who benefited from free inputs under the Presidential Input Scheme being administered by The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe said they took advantage of the early rains after receiving inputs on time.
This season, about 400 000 farmers received free inputs, including seed and basal fertilisers to cover an average of one hectare. The inputs package was made up of about 8 000 tonnes of seed, 40 000 tonnes of basal fertliser and 20 000 tonnes of top dressing. Cottco is also providing chemicals.
“The fields are looking very good, the crop is extremely good. It is above average and this is largely because we took advantage of the early rains after receiving inputs on time,” said Mr Amos Hlupo of Chesa in Rushinga District.
“We are very happy that Cottco distributed inputs on time and we are hoping to achieve better yields.” Some of the crop has already reached the squaring stage, initial phases of ball formation. The farmers said despite the erratic rains being experienced across the country, their crop had not been affected since it was planted using the early rains.
“The dry spell has not affected us because we managed to plant very early and it is actually doing well under the conditions,” another farmer Mr Tashaya said.
“This has made pest control easier.” Last year, excessive rains resulted in crop management and pest control a nightmare. Growers’ chairman in Chizanga area, Mt Darwin, Mr Moses Chaoresa applauded Cottco for timely distribution of inputs saying this would help farmers achieve better yields.
“I represent about 60 farmers and we are all happy with how Cottco distributed the inputs. The inputs came on time and we are now receiving chemicals. This is what we have been calling for since it will help us to achieve better yields as well as good quality,” he said.
Cottco area manager for Mt Darwin Tonderai Hokonya said the one hectare inputs package per farmer has helped to effectively manage the crop.
“We gave farmers inputs to cover an average one hectare and we have realised that maximum attention is being given to the crop. Farmers are applying good farming methods to preserve moisture, managing the weeds and pest control. I think we have reached a point where farmers are becoming more productive,” said Mr Hokonya.
Cotton used to be one of the country’s largest foreign currency earners before production slumped due to viability challenges resulting from inadequate funding and poor prices.
Last year, the national cotton output increased to 72 000 tonnes, up from 28 000 tonnes produced a year earlier, according to the Agriculture and Marketing Authority. Production of the “white gold” slumped to about 28 000 tonnes last year, the lowest since 1992. Last year, Cottco produced 75 percent of the total output with 155 000 farmers having participated.