By Staff Reporter
GOVERNMENT says it will clear its arrears with cotton farmers by the end of May 2021 to ensure farmers remain viable.
Last year cotton farmers failed to receive payment for their crop from cottoco and in some instances the firm resorted to paying farmers via groceries.
Minister of lands, agriculture, fisheries, water, climate and rural resettlement Anxious Masuka told the house of Asembly that glitches in the electronic payment system used by Cottco had resulted in farmers failing to receiving their money.
“I would like to thank the Hon. Member for the question. In fact the cotton marketing season for 2021 has not commenced yet but I think the Hon. Member is making reference to last year, 2020’s marketing season where we had those macro-economic challenges and then payment, electronic money was disrupted to some extent and then COTCO opted to part pay farmers in the form of groceries.
Then a balance is also due to those farmers as Government support. Now that the economy has stabilised, inflation is coming down and the payment system has been put in place, we all hope that the payment for cotton farmers this season will proceed seamlessly and smoothly and that farmers will receive their due payments.
While I am at this Madam Speaker, may I also take the opportunity to reassure the House and cotton farmers that the outstanding dues to farmers from 2020 selling season will be paid out by the 31st May, 2021. The Government is committed to ensuring that that happens and also to provide further support to ensure that cotton production becomes a viable undertaking by the small holder sector”.
Cotton is one of the country’s major foreign currency earners in the agriculture sector after tobacco and sugar.
Cotton is largely grown in the drier parts of the country as the crop is drought resistant. The crop is a source of livelihood for over 250 000 thousand household in the country and the number is set to increase as more companies are venturing in cotton contract farming as well as the inclusion of cotton under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.