Pres­i­den­tial cot­ton scheme spreads to new ar­eas

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Business News -

ZIM­BABWE’s cot­ton in­dus­try is re­gain­ing mo­men­tum with farm­ers, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas that had long aban­doned the crop, slowly re­turn­ing to pro­duc­tion of the “white gold.”

Through the Pres­i­den­tial In­put Scheme, which helps farm­ers with free in­puts, ar­eas that had stopped grow­ing cot­ton have re­sumed pro­duc­tion.

The Cot­ton Com­pany of Zim­babwe, which is ad­min­is­ter­ing the pro­gramme, is ex­pand­ing the scheme to also in­clude farm­ers in non-tra­di­tional cot­ton grow­ing ar­eas and those that had stopped pro­duc­tion. Cottco has al­ready launched the pro­gramme in Mata­bele­land.

It is tar­get­ing to sup­port at least 20 000 farm­ers in Mata­bele­land North and South Prov­inces. Tra­di­tion­ally, cot­ton was largely grown in Gokwe, Muzara­bani and the Lowveld.

The ex­pan­sion of the free in­puts pro­gramme fol­lows a suc­cess­ful sea­son, which saw cot­ton pro­duc­tion fi­nanced un­der the scheme grow­ing by more than 400 per­cent to 55 000 tonnes.

A re­cent visit to ar­eas in Masholana land East and Man­i­ca­land Prov­inces, showed that thou­sands of farm­ers were ben­e­fit­ing from the pro­gramme, now run­ning for a third con­sec­u­tive year.

“We had been farm­ing cot­ton since 1974, but it be­came un­avail­able af­ter liberalisation of the in­dus­try, as farm­ers opted for other farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties deemed to be prof­itable while many peo­ple de­pended on the crop to raise fam­i­lies, no­body was still in­ter­ested in the crop un­til the launch of this free in­puts pro­gramme,” said Clif­ford Ndek­were, a 20 hectare plot holder in Zviyambi area in the Hwedza South con­stituency.

Pri­vati­sa­tion of the cot­ton sec­tor was part of the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund mea­sures un­der Esap, de­signed to en­hance com­pet­i­tive­ness in the sec­tor.

This year, the Gov­ern­ment will spend $60 mil­lion on cot­ton in­puts — more than dou­ble what was spent two sea­sons ago. About 400 000 house­holds are ex­pected to ben­e­fit. Si­mon Gondo, a head­man in Mu­ram­binda said the cot­ton free in­put pro­gramme had been well re­ceived.

“We used to grow the crop but at a much smaller scale but we stopped be­cause the crop had be­come too costly to pro­duce.

“The pro­gramme has seen many farm­ers tak­ing up pro­duc­tion again. It started last year, but the in­ter­est has sig­nif­i­cantly grown. We also have new farm­ers and they are even pre­pared to plant big­ger hac­tarage,” said Gondo.

With many peo­ple tak­ing to cot­ton pro­duc­tion for the first time, Cottco has in­ten­si­fied aware­ness pro­grammes to equip farm­ers with good farm­ing prac­tices.

“Some farm­ers have also been put into groups led by farm­ers with knowl­edge of cot­ton farm­ing.

“We have peo­ple who came from tra­di­tional cot­ton farm­ing ar­eas and are help­ing farm­ers (with Cot­ton ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers) tak­ing pro­duc­tion for the first time,” he added.

Peter Musarurwa, 60, ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the dis­burse­ment of the in­puts, say­ing: “There is much im­prove­ment from last year. This will help us to plant on time.”

Farm­ers from Dorowa said they were tak­ing pro­duc­tion for the first time and were hope­ful of good yields.

“There is noth­ing that will stop us from get­ting good har­vest be­cause we are get­ting free fer­tilis­ers and seed. We are also reg­u­larly re­ceiv­ing train­ing from Cottco and we are con­fi­dent that this will help us achieve good yields,” said Shadrek Taona.

Un­der Cottco’s Buhera District, about 6 000 farm­ers have reg­is­tered and the com­pany is tar­get­ing 10 000 farm­ers.

Fed­er­a­tion of Farm­ers Union chair­man Mr Won­der Chabikwa said Zim­babwe had the great­est com­par­a­tive cli­matic con­di­tions suit­able for cot­ton farm­ing.

“The ar­eas that Cottco is tar­get­ing are suit­able for cot­ton pro­duc­tion but farm­ers had aban­doned pro­duc­tion due to lack of fund­ing af­ter Gov­ern­ment lib­er­alised the in­dus­try.

“Now that the 100 per­cent in­put sub­sidy has spurred ac­tiv­ity, we would want to ap­plaud farm­ers for tak­ing pos­i­tive re­sponse to this Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive,” said Mr Chabikwa.

A woman re­ceives basal fer­tiliser un­der the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Pro­gramme at a dis­tri­bu­tion point in Mu­ram­binda

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