Cottco pays out US$21m to farmers

THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) has finally paid US$21 million it owed farmers, NewsDay Farming reports. But cotton producers say they are still owed US$2,8 million.

THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) has finally paid US$21 million it owed farmers, NewsDay Farming reports. But cotton producers say they are still owed US$2,8 million.

The company has been struggling to settle the payments due to lack of funding.

In an update, Cottco, however, said it had cleared its debt to farmers and U$323 642 remained uncollected despite several notices to farmers to do so.

“This delay in voucher redemption is a cause for concern, particularly in this drought year whereby farmers require financial resources to ensure food security,” the update reads in part.

“Farmers are encouraged to visit business units or designated collection points promptly to access their hard-earned payments.

“Cottco remains committed to ensuring transparency and efficiency in the payment process, and encourages farmers to actively engage with the company to access their rightful payments without delay.”

In Mashonaland West province, 830 farmers are yet to collect their money, with payments totalling US$82 384. In Mashonaland Central province, 416 farmers have not collected their pay cheques worth US$42 512.

The update also shows that in Mashonaland East province, 116 farmers' payments totalling US$15 329 remain unclaimed, while in Midlands province the figure stood at US$32 872.

In Masvingo, 892 farmers are yet to collect their payments totalling US$82 978, Matabeleland North, 276 farmers are still to collect their US$14 175, and Manicaland had US$53 392 of uncollected dues.

“These payments were disbursed to farmers via mobile money platforms as vouchers,” Cottco said.

But Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe chairman Stewart Mubonderi had no kind words for Cottco on the payment delays.

“Cottco had paid US$21 million and the outstanding is US$2,8 million which is worrisome as we are facing drought,” he said.

The cotton farmers were initially owed US$23,6 million.

“My issue is the breakdown of provinces. This is a lot of money and it needs to be paid to farmers as soon as possible. Cottco has to use the people like chairperson who are being selected by farmers who know farmers as they are in the same community to disburse that money.

“The company has to show seriousness as farmers are facing hardships this year, and giving those vouchers will be easier than what is happening. On the issue of ZiG which they have not paid, that money needs to be paid to farmers. It will be unfair if that money is not paid on time to farmers.”

Cotton is one of the country's major agricultural export commodities and is largely grown by smallholder farmers.

Due to a number of factors, including among others, drought, climate change, low pricing, out-of-date varieties and payment delays, Zimbabwe’s cotton output has been declining.

Zimbabwe’s cotton production increased by 67% to 89,6 million kilogrammes during the 2022/23 farming season, statistics from the Agricultural Marketing Authority show. In terms of value, the white gold generated US$29,7 million and ZWL$24,1 billion.

The nation produced 137 702 tonnes in 2021, up from 91 712 the year before. The production of cotton began to decline in 2013. Before 2013, production was between 200 000 and 350 000 tonnes.

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