HomeBusinessFarmers lobby for cotton to be declared a national crop

Farmers lobby for cotton to be declared a national crop

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The government should declare cotton a national crop and move with haste to address the failures in the market to attract new growers and persuade the departed cotton growers to return to the fields, a researcher has said.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

The cotton industry is suffering from volatile international prices, extreme weather, poor distribution of rain, side marketing, high input costs and the decline in yield per hectare.

COTTON FIELD

However, a Bulawayo-based policy analyst with Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe, Butler Tambo, said the industry could be revived if the government was supportive.

“The State has to move with haste to address the failures in the cotton market to attract new growers and persuade the departed cotton growers to return to the fields,” Tambo said.

He said government must demand immediate action from the regulator to put order in the chaotic affairs of the Cotton Ginners Association.

Tambo said the desirability of announcing pre-planting prices for cotton each season should be given serious consideration by government based on a formula to be agreed between farmers’ representatives, ginners, Zimbabwe Textile Manufacturers Association, Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers Association and government.

“Zimbabwe should return to the policy of high quality hand-picked cotton with immediate effect as this costs the farmers and the country a premium of 20% on lint exports to global markets,” he said.

“The changes should see production of cotton rebounding to previous levels of around 300 000mt per year by the 2015-16 season and increasing consistently thereafter. The production volumes of the crop should be increased to match ginning capacity by bringing in new cotton areas and farmers, and increasing yields from irrigated cotton. This is what will eradicate side marketing of cotton for good.”

Tambo said agreements between ginners/merchants/contractors and farmers were weak and opaque because of lack of transparency on the part of the stronger party — the ginner.

“This calls for the strengthening of the farmer representative bodies to assist the farmers in the negotiations. The regulator, whether it is Agricultural Marketing Authority or the proposed Cotton Industry and Marketing Board, must enforce compliance by both parties,” he said.

He also said government has to enforce existing tariff measures whose lack of enforcement has led to the demise of the industry as a result of smuggling of imports, and corruption.

Within its new export-led growth strategy for the textiles industry, government needed to ensure that it also promotes a domestic market for the local manufacturers subject to price and quality considerations, Tambo said.

“This is a domestic market access and niche creation strategy. Government should make it compulsory for the public sector to source their raw materials (fabrics for uniforms for police, army, prisons, and hospitals) and finished goods from local textile and clothing manufacturers.”

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