ZIMBABWE’s cotton exports rebounded sharply last year, buoyed by the Presidential Inputs Scheme, which saw production of the crop increasing by more than 150 percent.
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.
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe, which is administering the three-year Presidential Inputs Scheme said foreign exchange receipts from lint rose 344 percent to $20 million from $4,5 million realised in the previous year.
National cotton output increased to 72 000 tonnes, up from 28 000 tonnes produced this year, 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.
“We generated about $20 million from lint exports and we are looking forward to another better season,” Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike told The Herald Business last week.
Zimbabwe is on a drive to boost exports through diversification and the cotton is among key commodities with high potential of generating the much needed foreign exchange.
Some export incentives have been put in place by the Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to encourage production of goods that can be exported.
Meanwhile, Mr Manamike said the 2017/18 season had progressed well in terms of inputs distribution.
“The season underway will be bigger than last season. The inputs package covers 400 000ha with each farmer getting a package for one hectare,” said Mr Manamike.
This year’s package is made up of 8 000 tonnes of seed, 40 000 tonnes of basal fertiliser and 20 000 tonnes of top dressing. The first tranche of inputs being planting seed and Compound L fertilisers have been disbursed to 90 percent of the targeted 400 000 farmers.
Top dressing fertiliser has been delivered to the distribution points and is awaiting disbursement. Disbursements would commence once crop establishment has been validated.
“Crop establishment is ongoing as the respective catchment areas start receiving meaningful rainfall. All things being equal, our cotton output will grow,” said Mr Manamike.
The first consignment of conventional chemicals required during the early stages of the cotton plant have been received and dispatched to the distribution points, he added.
Some farmers who spoke to The Herald Business during recent visits to Sanyati, Gokwe and Chiredzi expressed satisfaction with the progress on inputs distribution, saying they were looking forward to a much better season.
“We received all critical inputs on time and we have managed to plant. The programme is moving on well and we are hoping for a much better season,” said Bernard Masara of Gokwe.
Mr Solomon Mutasa of Sanyati said while some farmers were yet to plant because their areas had not yet received the rains, most of them had received inputs.
“We are only for the rains, but we have received most of the inputs that we need at this point of time,” he said.
A farmer in Pathway, Mr Noah said the programme had managed to lure back many farmers who had abandoned the crop due to exploitative credit schemes by private companies.
In the Lowveld, farmers applauded the Government for the programme, saying it had improved livelihoods of many villagers.
“Cottco has played its part (in terms of timely distribution of inputs) and we are very happy.
“It is now up to us to deliver and we are just hoping we will receive good rains as we did last season,” said Tapera Chakwesha of Magumire village in Chiredzi.