ZIMBABWE’S cotton output for the 2017/2018 cropping season surged 95 percent compared to 2016/17 season driven by government’s renewed efforts on the presidential input scheme and investments by six private cotton companies.
This signals a huge come back following years of plummeting sparked by viability challenges and drought.
Statistics released by the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) show that total output for 2018 marketing season stood at 142 761 141 kilograms as at 26 October 2018, compared to 73 141 231 kilograms achieved same time last year, a 95 percent increase.
AMA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Nancy Zitsanza told Agrinews that a few bales were still expected in the 2018 marketing season but will effect minor changes to the figures.
Cotton remains a strategic crop for the Southern African country considering that it is one of the major foreign currency earner in the agriculture sector(after tobacco and sugar) and a source of livelihoods for over 250 000 houses mainly in drier parts of the country.
While a total of six companies had registered to contract cotton growers in the 2018/19 season, Zitsanza said the authority was working to attract more investors into the cotton business.
A number of investors have over the years shunned the cotton industry in the country due to low international prices.
In Zimbabwe the situation was worsened by the deepening economic crisis in the country which saw farmers getting as low as 50 c per kg.
In the 2018 marketing season farmers were paid minimum prices ranging from 51.7cents to 55 cents per kilogram before grade adjustments.
Bonuses are normally paid after the grading exercise.
Zitsanza said the companies which have registered are the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), Southern Cotton, Alliance Ginneries, Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium, China Africa Cotton and Shawashaagri (Pvt) Ltd.
Zitsanza said Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium and Shawashaagri are new companies while Agriculture Value Chain and Grafax which participated in contracting growers last year did not register this year.
“Cotton is a drought tolerant crop which can be grown in marginal areas. The Authority requires that contractors give farmers full input packs and extension support in order to boost productivity.
“Furthermore, training of cotton farmers through farmer field schools is a programme on the cotton calendar to enhance farmers and extensionworkers skills in cotton production and marketing,” she
Cotton is also a major raw material in the manufacturing of cooking oil and stock feeds.