Zim readies for 2nd World Cotton Day commemorations Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka recently apologised for the delays in farmer payments, saying this had been occasioned by the delay in the release of funds by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, who are the buyers of the Strategic Grain Reserve.

Edgar Vhera

Agriculture Specialist Writer 

IN two days’ time, the country holds its second World Cotton Day (WCD) commemorations in Harare following its inaugural launch last year with farmers hoping welfare issues will take centre stage.

The theme for this year’s event is — Making cotton fair and sustainable for all, from farm to fashion.

In a recent twitter post, Cottco said: “On October 5, 2023 we join the rest of the world in commemorating WCD. Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka will be guest of honour.” 

WCD was launched on October 7 in 2019 as an initiative of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. The day was set aside to reflect on the importance of cotton as a global commodity and is meant to attract new investments from private and public sectors, development partners and cotton value chain players in the growth of the industry. 

The event presents an opportunity to share knowledge about and showcase cotton-related activities and products. 

This year’s celebrations come at a time when some farmers are still waiting for their payments for the 2022/23 cotton deliveries with Cotton Producers and Marketers Association (CPMA) chairman, Mr Stewart Mubonderi hoping discussions at the event would motivate merchants to pay the farmers and complement Government’s free input programme for sustained production.

“As farmers, we expect our contractors to pay us on time so that we do away with the urge to side-market incited by the desperation for sustenance. Government’s efforts for rural development through the free Presidential Input Scheme (PIS) need to be supported by our buyers through timeous payment for seed cotton,” the CPMA chair said.

The Government initiated the PIS during the 2015/16 production season by availing US$26 million for input procurement. This funding has been increasing over the years with funding for the 2021/22 season rising 228 percent to US$86 million. Figures for the 2022/23 season are still to be availed.

Mr Mubonderi said for sustainability of cotton production there was need for research on new varieties like the high yielding Mahyco that is imported from India and produces three times more than the local open pollinated varieties.

“We want local hybrids that are suited to our agro-ecological regions in terms of ball sizes, drought resistance and fibre quality. Production of high yields will increase incomes to growers and sustain livelihoods of the populace in marginal areas,” added Mr Mubonderi.

At the inaugural WCD last year many stakeholders in the textile and clothing industry lamented the decline in the seed cotton grades over the years that led to the country relying on imported clothing materials.

Government has responded to the poor grades situation and initiated a grade-based pricing system starting with the 2023 cotton marketing season in an endeavour to reward production of quality cotton.     

The best grade A seed cotton received a price of US$0,46 per kilogramme while grade B was on US$0,43. Grade C and D were bought at US$0, 41 and US$0, 40 per kilogramme respectively. The impact of this differential grading system will be known when all the crop had been graded as seed cotton grading is still underway.

Cotton is a major source of livelihood for over one million people including farmers, farm workers and their families and secondary industrial workers. It is the second largest agricultural foreign currency earner after tobacco. 

Cotton area, output and average yield (1980-2023)

Cotton productivity has been on a declining trend from an average yield of 1, 75 tonnes per ha in 1980 to a record low of 0, 2 tonnes per hectare in 2022. The yield has since surged 135 percent to 500 kilogramme per hectare in 2023.

The 2023 seed cotton intake rose 60 percent from 56 000 tonnes the previous season to 90 000 tonnes.

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