The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has said cotton farmers and ginners face serious pricing issues which discourage them from continuing with producing the crop.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
AMA chief executive officer Rockie Mutenha appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Irrigation Development on Tuesday where he told MPs that international cotton prices of lint also affected the pricing system.
Mutenha had been asked to explain the problems faced by the cotton industry by committee chairman David Butau (Mbire MP).
“From the farmers’ perspective, it is the price that ginners are offering that is discouraging farmers from growing cotton, and from the contractors and ginners point of view, it is the international prices of lint which is year-by-year going down that is affecting cotton pricing,” Mutenha said.
“On our part, we have been working closely with Agritex extension officers and the Cotton Training Centre researchers to try and improve the yields because our yields are poor, because we do not have quality plant population,” he said.
Mutenha said, while Zimbabwean cotton yields ranged up to 17 000 plants per hectare, other cotton farming countries had very high yields of 45 000 to 50 000 plants per hectare.
“That is why we achieve 0,6 tonne yields per-tonne when other countries talk of 4 000 tonnes per-yield. The cost of production is another issue where a bag of fertiliser costs $35 or $40 and yet in other countries it is cheaper. We need to lobby government so that there are subsidies in order to support pricing and to keep farmers growing cotton,” he said.
Cotton research was also said to be necessary to improve the quality of yields of cotton.
“Most farmers are still nursing cotton from last year instead of putting new cotton crop, which is bringing in a lot of diseases that end up affecting the new cotton crop, and the yields are poor. We sell our cotton to international markets but when the fibre breaks easily it is poor quality,” Mutenha said.
He said currently ginners used a one-price-fits-all system for all grades of cotton, an issue which was discouraging farmers.
In 2013 and 2014 cotton production was said to have remained stagnant at 143 000 metric tonnes.
“The international market for lanterns was not favourable this marketing season at 90 cents per pound in June 2014 to 70 cents per pound this year.
Most cotton ginners faced difficulties in paying offshore loans because of international prices and we have problems with some ginners failing to pay.
He said agro-merchants also complained about being charged levies by rural district councils where they went looking for cotton.