Cotton farmers should desist from side marketing and deliver all contract-funded produce to appropriate merchants for a sustainable recovery of the sector, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perence Shiri has said.
Government has been financing cotton production in the past three years, but lost significant amounts of the crop through contractual breaches or side marketing.
Side marketing occurs when farmers are enticed to sell their commodity outside contractual agreements with companies who would have financed the production.
In a speech read on his behalf by Masvingo crop and livestock officer Peter Chamisa at a Cottco National Field Day in Chiredzi last week, Minister Shiri chronicled how the Presidential Inputs Scheme had helped the recovery of the cotton industry.
“I am happy to note that the prices have improved following Government’s intervention and production is on a growth trajectory,” said Minister Shiri.
“Positive changes have been noted in cotton growing areas and we foresee a future where Zimbabwe’s textile industry will be fully revived . . . and trust that value addition projects will attract investment.
“But I need to say that it is every farmer’s responsibility not to side market the crop. It takes your initiative to deliver the crop to Cottco that is a Government-appointed agent in providing you with inputs.”
Last year, the Government availed inputs worth $62 million to support 380 000 cotton growers, bringing the total State investment to about $130 million since 2015.
The State-sponsored programme has helped the revival of cotton production as output increased to about 74 000 tonnes last year from 28 000 tonnes recorded two years ago — the lowest yield in more than two decades, as farmers shunned the crop due to poor prices.
Earlier, Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike, had told farmers that cotton production was on a recovery path while urging farmers to desist from retrogressive practices such as side marketing and abuse of inputs.
“By selling inputs (meant for cotton production), you are selling your future,” said Mr Manamike.
“Side marketing kills the appetite of investors; Government in particular. We are on the right path.”
Mr Manamike said the company will next week introduce hybrid seeds to lift productivity.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association president Mr Steward Mubonderi, said cotton was a strategic crop that should largely remain under the Government.
Mr Mubonderi said the cotton industry was viable until the early 2000s when it was opened to small companies which wreaked havoc in the sector by inducing side marketing.
This created challenges with debt recovery, yield as well as caused poor operational efficiencies.
Cotton growing is gaining momentum in the country as the country seeks an alternative crop that generate foreign currency after the closing of the tobacco marketing season.