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Cotton output declines

Last year’s cotton output registered a decline

Zimbabwe’s cotton output  declined by over 50% last season following protracted payment delays which have “frustrated” most farmers, according to statistics from the Agricultural Marketing Authority (Ama).

In the 2021/22 season, farmers  produced 57 000 tonnes of the crop as compared to 137 762 tonnes produced during the 2020/21 marketing season, a 59% drop.

“Heavy rains and floods at the beginning of this season which leached soils, then erratic rains which were received thereafter up to December (affected crops),” Clever Isaya, Ama chief executive told NewsDay Business.

“In January 2022, we had Tropical Storm Ana which caused destruction to both crops and animals, a cold spell quickly set in in May 2022 which affected ball splitting of cotton.”

He said payment delays in the previous season had “frustrated” some farmers while “non-destruction of ratoon crop in some instances perpetuated pest and disease prevalence.

Zimbabwe’s cotton farmers have been perennially affected by payment problems.

A significant part of the crop is produced under contract from big corporations, but they have been accused of abusing farmers by paying low prices or delaying the payment.

Last week, government announced new pre-planting producer prices and farmers noted that differential grading fees would not persuade farmers to improve the quality of their produce.

Cotton prices per grade will range from US$0,40 per kg for grade D to US$0,46 for grade A.

“As cotton farmers, we are happy about the new prices. Last year the pre-planting price was US$0,32 per kilogramme. So, an upward movement from US$0,32 per kg to US$0,40 per kg for grade D is a welcome development,” Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe president Stewart Mubonderi told NewsDay Farming recently.

“We appreciate the effort that has been made by government to increase the price for cotton. We are only worried that the payment system may not be as good as we would have loved it to be.”

Mubonderi, however, said the differential grading fees were not enticing enough to encourage farmers to grade their cotton.

“The difference is too little and irrelevant. So, we would love a situation where grade D is pegged at US$0,40. Then there is a difference of about US$0,05 or US$0,03 so that farmers are encouraged to make sure that when they pick they follow guiding rules.

“Grade A is pegged at US$0,46, a difference of US$0,06 from grade D.  A better and attractive situation could have been to say US$0,48 to US$0,50,” he said.

“We hope that the grade differentials that have been announced by government as thepre-planting prices will motivate farmers,” he said.

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