Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) has demanded more small scale cotton farmers’ participation in the processing of raw cotton into lint in order to improve their lives and productivity on farms as they would earn more money.
This comes after private ginners have illegally bought Government contracted cotton from small scale cotton farmers for pittance.
ZFU executive director Paul Zakariya told The Herald Business that cotton farmers must move to beneficiate cotton to get real value of the white gold.
“For a very long time we receive reports that private ginners are buying cotton for a chickenfeed from small scale farmers as most unscrupulous buyers classify their cotton as C or D class instead of A or B. By so doing they make huge mark ups at the expense of the farmer.
“What we are telling our fellow farmers today is that please starting from next season try to grade your cotton and separate between seed and lint in order to get more money including high export incentives that the central bank is giving to exporters,” said Mr Zakariya.
According to a research by Econometer Global Capital, cotton lint exports are projected to reach 67 890 tonnes in 2018 from 45 000 tonnes this year due to higher seed cotton production and favourable international prices in 2017.
Research indicated that seed cotton production is projected to reach 248 000 tonnes next year, up from the 72 000 tonnes achieved this year on government’s support to the white gold production.
“Over 300 000 small holder farmers in our organisation grow cotton and it is our hope that these farmers should not cry foul and sit back but move forward, do the necessary procedures to value add their cotton to get more money. If they do so, they will directly earn foreign currency and at the same time sell seeds to cattle feed manufacturers.
“Next time even the private ginners themselves will buy their cotton at fairly high prices,” he said.
Area under seed cotton production increased by almost 86percent to about 289 000ha in 2018 pushing up production.
He also said the private sector should help in the growing of cotton in Zimbabwe to increase productivity.
2017 lint exports are estimated to reach 45 000t, about 268percent higher than the 2016 exports due to expanded size of the crop.
In 2018, lint exports are forecasted at 67 890 tonnes earning approximately $130 million due to higher seed cotton production and favourable international prices.
And it is this $130 million which ZFU wants cotton small scale farmers to enjoy the piece of the cake.
Government has provided free inputs to cotton farmers for the third year running in the 2017/18 season, which has motivated more farmers to take up cotton production.
Under the scheme, cotton will be supported to the tune of $60 million, catering for 400 000 households.
Cotton, also known as white gold, is the third most important cash crop in Zimbabwe after tobacco and sugarcane, grown by thousands of smallholder farmers.
Over the years cotton exports have become relatively insignificant due to under production.
However, it peaked after dollarisation, earning about $200 million from 143 788 tonnes of lint exports in 2012.
The closure of key processing industries and competing crops such as maize and tobacco affected cotton production over the past five years.
In 2016, 12 223 tonnes, constituting about 93percent of domestic lint produced in the country, was exported mainly to South Africa where it was warehoused before being exported to other destinations.
However, production is yet to recover to its peak of 353 000 tonnes of cotton in 2000. Traditionally, cotton was the second largest foreign currency earner after tobacco in the agriculture sector.