Farmers dump cotton farming

SOME cotton growers countrywide have resorted to growing other crops, with others, particularly in Mashonaland West, switching to soybeans and maize following a disastrous 2012 marketing season.

BUSINESS REPORTER

Cotton fetched low prices of $0,35 per kg instead of the promised $1,50 at the start of the 2011-2012 season, resulting in farmers incurring huge losses.

According to the latest African Development Bank (AfDB) monthly report, most farmers had not begun planting by November.

“In as much as cotton companies were sending agents to engage farmers, most of the growers were not willing to produce the crop this season,” the regional lender said in its report.

“Instead they are diversifying, growing other crops such as sugar beans, soybeans and groundnuts under conservation farming in anticipation that this move will increase yields and reduce production costs.”

AfDB said by the third week of November cotton should have been planted, but by then, the farmers had not yet received inputs.

“This meant that even if they still planted the crop this season, they would almost certainly obtain low yields as they missed the planting dates. This, combined with the fact that most of the growers are shying away from the crop, may affect the crop output,” AfDB said.

The bank noted that there had been general concerns that agricultural development was seriously underfunded against a background of severe food insecurity that had been haunting most parts of the country for more than a decade now.

AfDB said the government should also disburse funds to seed houses on time in order to allow farmers to access inputs timeously.

These seed houses were, however, still owed millions in government debt and thus prevented from responding adequately to farmers demands.

The agricultural sector was allocated $159,4 million in the 2013 National Budget, representing 4% of the total Budget vis-a-vis the 10% set target of the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.