Govt dou­bles sup­port for cot­ton farm­ers

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Harare Bureau

THE Gov­ern­ment has scaled up in­put sup­port for the cot­ton farm­ers, with 400 000 house­holds ex­pected to re­ceive free in­puts cov­er­ing a hectare each, a Cab­i­net min­is­ter said last week.

This is dou­ble last year’s pack­age and could trans­late to a yield of more than 200 000 tonnes.

“We’re ex­pect­ing good rains this sea­son and we would want to ca­pac­i­tate our farm­ers,” Agri­cul­ture, Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Ir­ri­ga­tion De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Dr Joseph Made said.

Last year, farm­ers re­ceived free in­puts worth $25 mil­lion and the ex­pected po­ten­tial har­vest was 130 000 tonnes.

How­ever, pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be way be­low the ini­tial es­ti­mate as yields were af­fected by poor rains and late dis­tri­bu­tion of the in­puts.

In­dus­try play­ers es­ti­mate that pro­duc­tion could be as low as 35 000 tonnes, the low­est since 1992 when out­put de­clined to record 52 000 tonnes since in­de­pen­dence. How­ever, an­a­lysts said while the Gov­ern­ment should be com­mended for sup­port­ing farm­ers with free in­puts, the ap­petite for grow­ing cot­ton re­mained sub­dued due to poor prices.

While pro­vid­ing free in­puts was crit­i­cal, it was also im­por­tant for the Gov­ern­ment to come up with a price mech­a­nism that in­cor­po­rates a pre-plant­ing price and for­ward sales.

“Some ma­jor cot­ton pro­duc­ing coun­tries in West Africa such as Burk­ina Faso, Cameroon and Ivory Coast an­nounce a pre-plant­ing price and that is what we should typ­i­cally do,” said Ed­more Ru­faro, an in­de­pen­dent com­mod­ity an­a­lyst based in Harare.

“The big­gest is­sue here is a to­tal loss of con­fi­dence among farm­ers and that needs to be ad­dressed.”

Mr Ru­faro said with il­le­gal sub­si­dies mainly by the western coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly the US, and in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion of syn­thetic gar­ments which are giv­ing stiff com­pe­ti­tion to cot­ton fab­rics, a pre-plant price would help in­su­late farm­ers from low global prices.

“There is a to­tal lack of em­pa­thy for the poor African farm­ers by those coun­tries pro­vid­ing il­le­gal sub­si­dies not only in cot­ton, but in other agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties such as sugar.”

The is­sue of farm sub­si­dies has been a highly emo­tive is­sue in view of the im­pli­ca­tions on world trade and po­lit­i­cal power dy­nam­ics.

Fun­da­men­tally, the richer na­tions saw it as their right to look af­ter their farm­ers’ vi­a­bil­ity while the emerg­ing na­tions felt that such ac­tion was un­fair and per­pet­u­ated trade struc­tures, which sup­pressed com­pet­i­tive­ness while at the same time per­pet­u­at­ing poverty in least de­vel­oped coun­tries whose economies are heav­ily de­pen­dent on global com­mod­ity prices.

Mrs Mon­ica Sibanda of Matutsa vil­lage, Gokwe picks cot­ton from the fam­ily’s two hectare plot in this file pic­ture

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