Cotton Farmers Hold On To Crop

Cotton growers are demanding a minimum price of US$0, 80 for grade D whilst merchants are offering US$0, 30, a move which farmers say was counterproductive since they cannot recoup production costs.

Efforts by government to break the cotton price impasse between buyers and merchants have yielded no results.

The on-going war has delayed the opening of the 2012 marketing season for the crop which normally starts in April.

Cotton producers from all the cotton growing regions who recently met at a Cotton National Stakeholders’ Roundtable said they will not release their commodity for a song.

“Considering all the costs we incurred during production what ginners are offering us is not profitable and we will not give in to that. We will not sell our cotton until the buyers come up with better offers,” Gokwe farmer, Ishmael Gwekwerere said.

He said what the merchants were offering will push them out of cotton farming.

“We are appealing to the government to expedite efforts to buy the crop as ginners have failed us. Government should just buy cotton at a better price,” Gwekwerere said.

Another Muzarabani farmer, Wellington Mazarura said:“We want price which match production costs. We also want to survive, send our children to school and also have decent lives. We want better returns which would enable us to pay for labour and other logistics.”

Cotton Ginners Association director general, Godfrey Buka, said:“We can only increase price if prices on the international market firms. At the moment the prices are on a downward trend due to flooding of the commodity on the international market.”

Buka said farmers should increase production per hectare in order to realise genuine profits.

Currently most cotton producers are yielding about 700 kilograms of cotton per hectare out of a possibility of between 2 000 and 3 000 kilograms per same area of land.

Cotton is largely grown in the drier parts of the country which include Muzarabani, Mwenezi, Chipinge, Chiredzi and Gokwe where it is a source of livelihood for over 250 000 households.

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), a socio-economic justice coalition network, said the Cotton Marketing Board should not have been privatised as this left small scale farmers vulnerable to exploitation by companies only concerned with maximizing profits.

“There is need to enact long-term policies that will sustain the local cotton production, processing and marketing to promote local demand rather than rely on exports where prices are uncertain and are determined at international demand and supply,” said ZIMCODD in a statement adding that, Government should get involved in the cotton sector by providing subsidies which could come in the form of inputs.

It added government should resuscitate local textile industries such as the Kadoma and David White Head textiles and protect these industries from competition from cheap Chinese imports and second hand clothes.