Government has been on a drive to increase output of cotton. This has seen farmers of the white gold getting inputs. In this question and answer, Cottco managing director Pius Manamike (PM) briefs NewsDay reporter Blessed Mhlanga (ND) on the efforts to revive the cotton industry and the challenges faced. Find excerpts below:
By Blessed Mhlanga
ND: Can you give us a general outlook of the cotton industry, where it’s coming from and where it’s headed to?
PM: The industry is on a recovery path with national production having slumped to 30 000 tonnes. The year 2017 witnessed a growth to 74 000 tonnes and we believe the trend will continue on a growth trajectory.
ND: We understand that farmers are getting access to inputs free of charge, how do you recover the money pumped into the sector?
PM: The nation benefits from the foreign currency generated and other downstream benefits.
ND: There has been allegation that you are now pushing for a monopoly in the industry, and in the process using political undertones to achieve this. What is your response to this?
PM: We are not pushing for a monopoly, but highlighting the fact that unregulated competition destroyed the industry. We need strong monitoring to ensure that each investor benefits from their investment in the growing and production of the crop with encroaching out into another company’s contracted growers.
ND: How long are you going to carry farmers on a zero payment scheme to access inputs programme?
PM: This is a government scheme and we have no say on its duration.
ND: Side marketing has been a serious threat in your industry, how are you dealing with it? We can only raise alarm, but don’t you have the power and means to stop it?
PM: Side marketing can only be prevented by the regulator who in our case is AMA (Agriculture Marketing Authority).
ND: Farmers are unhappy accessing their money on mobile platforms. Some of them say they are unable to use the technology. Are you aware of this challenge and how best can you resolve this?
PM: To the contrary, our cotton farmers have accepted the use of mobile wallets with 80% of the previous season’s payments made through this platform. Cash, however, remains the preferred means of payment by the farmers.
ND: What is the current crop assessment for this year, has the dry spell affect your projections.
PM: We cannot, at this stage, quantify the impact, but suffice to say that the effect was negative.
ND: How do you recover the investment in the event of a drought?
PM: That’s an act of God. There is no way we can recover.
ND: Do you have any set targets and if so, have you been meeting them?
PM: Our main objective is to ensure that all the inputs get to the farmers on time and that the farmers plant, use the inputs and observe good agronomic practices.
ND: What are you main challenges in implementing the project and to achieve success?
PM: Our main challenge still remains side marketing, where some ginners access cotton that is not commensurate with their investment in the inputs and the changing climate that is characterised by uneven distribution of rainfall. This is negatively affecting our yields.