By Michael Tome
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe has registered more than 21 000 farmers in Mashonaland East Province for the 2019/20 cotton farming season, indicating an 88 percent rise compared to last year.
This comes as cotton firm is intensifying cotton production drive in new areas or areas where production of the “white gold” used to thrive, but had been abandoned due to various factors including lack of funding.
Apart from Mashonaland East Province – Cottco – which is administering the Presidential Free Inputs Programme meant to support vulnerable households, is also targeting farmers in Manicaland and Matabeleland (North and South) and Masvingo Provinces.
The State-sponsored scheme, running for the fifth consecutive year, is meant to help marginalised farmers into production of the cash crop to help uplift standards of living.
Speaking at the launch of inputs distribution in Mutawatawa last Friday, Cottco operations manager Mr Munyaradzi Chikasha, said Government’s intervention had seen a steady rise in cotton output in the past three years with exception of the previous season, which was affected by a drought that also affected other crops.
About 20 000 hectares will be put under cotton in the province with a yield potential of about 10 000 tonnes.
Earlier during the week, Cottco had also launched the programme in Mushumbi Pools and Mashonaland Central and Murambinda.
“The renewed pricing regime has revived the appetite to grow cotton countrywide and as it stands 21 816 farmers have registered to grow cotton in Mashonaland East up from 11 623,” said Mr Chikasha. “We thank Government for noticing the importance of cotton in this economy and coming forward to sponsor.
Mr Chikasha discouraged cotton growers from immoral practices such as selling the inputs, saying that was tantamount to sabotaging the Government programme.
“Some cotton growers are short sighted’ they sale inputs without even getting to the field and as such Cottco has devised a way to monitor the crop and provide remaining inputs after monitoring the planted crop to curb cases of illicit trade of inputs.”
The Cotton Producers and Marketers’ Association chairman Stewart Mubonderi, discouraged cotton growers from side marketing, saying it deterred the Government efforts to create a revolving fund that benefits the sector in the long run.
“Cotton growers should desist from entertaining some companies that pitch up towards harvesting season; it dampens Government efforts to continue assisting cotton growers that sell the ultimate crop to unknown buyers,” said Mr Mubonderi.
At the Murambinda event, Cottco group agronomist Collen Nyawenze urged farmers to collaborate with field officers to ensure they adhered to good farming practices.
Mr Nyawenze said the company was happy with how farmers had responded to the call for cotton production in new areas, but emphasised the need for higher productivity.
“We are quite happy that you have responded to our call but also implore you to closely work with our field officers who will help with good farming knowledge.
“It is important because we want to achieve good quality and higher yields,” said Mr Nyawenze.”