Drought, finance cuts hit cotton
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