Drought, fi­nance cuts hit cot­ton

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Harare Bureau

COT­TON out­put is ex­pected to fall to its low­est level since the 1992 drought be­cause of the se­ri­ous drought last sea­son and the re­duc­tion in fi­nance from cot­ton com­pa­nies.

Pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be be­tween 30 000 tonnes and 35 000 tonnes, down from 102 000 tonnes pro­duced last year, an of­fi­cial with a lead­ing cot­ton com­pany said.

The sec­tor used to sup­port about 400 000 house­holds. It is a ma­jor source of liveli­hood in com­mu­ni­ties such as Gokwe, Chiredzi and Muzara­bani.

Free inputs dis­bursed by the Gov­ern­ment last year had the po­ten­tial of pro­duc­ing 130 000 tonnes.

“The worst har­vest was in 1992 when the coun­try pro­duced 52 000 tonnes and this was be­cause of the drought,” said the of­fi­cial who re­quested not to be named for pro­fes­sional rea­sons.

“But it is likely to be worse this year, from the as­sess­ment that we have made, we could reach 35 000 tonnes, but chances are that it could be lower.

“The ma­jor rea­son is drought while some farm­ers might not have planted the seed, which was pro­vided by the Gov­ern­ment for free. Late in­put dis­burse­ment is also an is­sue.”

No com­ment could be ob­tained from the Agri­cul­tural Mar­ket­ing Au­thor­ity by the time of go­ing to print. But ob­servers have pointed out that “a for­mal en­quiry” should be con­ducted to es­tab­lish why the crop size “has come down to unimag­in­able lev­els”.

“We can’t sim­ply shrug off and say its drought; there are deeper is­sues which need to be ex­plored.”

Zim­babwe Na­tional Farm­ers Union vice pres­i­dent Mr Gari Musika said while the poor rains have af­fected crop out­put, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing 2015 /16 sea­son, ma­jor con­trac­tors have scaled back on their inputs fund­ing to the detri­ment of grower yield re­al­i­sa­tion.

“To op­ti­mise pro­duc­tion, we need to give farm­ers the req­ui­site inputs,” said Mr Musika.

“If you give farm­ers seed only; and there is no fer­til­izer and chem­i­cals, they will not get good yields. I think the agron­omy of the crop is not be­ing han­dled prop­erly.”

Since the be­gin­ning of this year’s cot­ton sell­ing sea­son, farm­ers have de­liv­ered 16 mil­lion kilo­grammes of cot­ton, be­low half of what was de­liv­ered in the same pe­riod last year.

Seed cot­ton in­take as at July 29, 2016 showed 15,9 mil­lion kg of the crop had been de­liv­ered, down from 36,5 mil­lion kg dur­ing the same pe­riod last year, the Agri­cul­ture Mar­ket­ing Au­thor­ity said. Eight com­pa­nies were li­censed to buy the crop this year.

Most mer­chants are pay­ing an av­er­age price of 36c per kilo­gramme. While Cottco is pay­ing 35c per kilo­gramme on the spot, the com­pany is is­su­ing prom­is­sory receipts to farm­ers in­di­cat­ing that it will ad­just the price to 45c kg. Cottco, which is buy­ing the crop on be­half of the Gov­ern­ment has bought about 6 mil­lion kg, fol­lowed by Olam (3,1 mil­lion kg), Grafax (2 mil­lion kg) and Al­liance Gin­ners at 1,5 mil­lion kg.

Cot­ton out­put is ex­pected to fall to its low­est level since the 1992 drought be­cause of the se­ri­ous drought last sea­son and the re­duc­tion in fi­nance from cot­ton com­pa­nies

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