The cotton marketing season has been extended to the end of this month to allow farmers complete delivering their crop with deliveries currently standing at over 86 000 tonnes but expected to reach 100 000 tonnes, doubling the harvest from last year.
This is a 74 percent increase from the 49 million kilogrammes delivered during the same period last year. The final production of raw cotton fibre is roughly expected to reach 100 000 tonnes, just over double the 48 000 tonnes for the previous season.
The increase in cotton production this season follows the Government’s timely intervention with lucrative cotton prices and the classification of cotton as an export crop this season. This year, Zimbabwe is targeting US$70 million from cotton exports. This is in addition to the cotton lint that is bought locally, and more is being bought as David Whitehead under its new owners is installing spinning and weaving machinery.
In addition cotton seed is a growing component of the local production of cooking oils.
Statistics released by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), show that the four cotton buyers purchased 85 920 590 kg of seed cotton valued at US$28 440 927 and $22 885 283 553 in local currency. This was an increase from last years’s 82 549 067 kg of produce bought for US$27 305 929 and $21 888 292 568.
AMA business director Mr Jonathan Mukuruba said there were areas where farmers were still delivering their crop adding that the marketing season was good although in some areas farmers did not receive enough rainfall.
‘’We received requests that there are some other areas who did not finish delivering their crop hence we have decided to extend the marketing season to the end of August to ensure that all farmers complete delivering their crop,’’ he said.
Last week, statistics from Cottco indicated that about 690 tonnes of fertiliser for the coming summer farming season had already been delivered in Chiredzi, Gokwe , Kadoma, Chinhoyi, Mutare, Muzarabani and Mt Darwin.
This year is the best season for cotton farmers as they are paid with a high component in foreign currency like tobacco growers.
Cotton farmers are paid 85 percent of their total sales in United States dollars and the remainder will be paid in Zimbabwe dollars at prevailing interbank exchange rates upon delivery of the crop at any Cottco buying point.
Cotton farmers have recorded high yields this season courtesy of the Presidential Inputs Scheme which enticed many to take up production of the crop.
Nearly 350 000 farmers were contracted to grow cotton under the Presidential Inputs Scheme last year and planted about 250 000 hectares and 152 000 tonnes were expected this season.
More than 360 000 farmers benefited from free inputs. Under the scheme, farmers get free basal and top dressing fertiliser, seed as well as chemicals.
Farmers have been receiving free cotton inputs under the scheme as part of efforts to increase the country’s cotton production and revive the industry which had almost collapsed.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association Mr Steward Mubonderi said this season was a great season where the productivity is likely to double the previous year adding that rainfall patterns were also good in the production of the crop.
“We are however happy with the 85 percent foreign currency retention which is motivating more farmers to join farming next season. Farmers with outstanding payments are going to receive their amounts as soon as possible.
“Farmers should continue delivering their crop to the buying points. This season was great for most farmers because we were motivated by the high component of foreign currency. I urge farmers to remove stalks in the fields in preparation of the next season,” he said.
Mr Mubonderi also urged farmers to prepare for the next season since the Government is currently distributing Pfumvudza inputs.
He urged seed companies to increase a new variety called myhco which helped most farmers to increase their productivity this season.
Farmers were excited this year and the majority showed that they will join cotton growing next year.
The 2023 cotton marketing season has been described as a success with farmers confessing how the crop has changed their lives
Mr Martin Bushe (39), a farmer and beneficiary of the Presidential Cotton Input Scheme from Alaska in Makonde, said getting a US dollar component was a good incentive for him to continue growing cotton.
“I intend to invest my money into an income generating project. My four wives and I have agreed to buy a grinding mill while the excess will be used to purchase other things that we are lacking at the farm.”
Mr Bushe said because of the bright prospects that the cotton crop had for farmers, he was going to save some money for the rent on 15 hectares he wished to lease this coming season.
“I target to put 15 hectares under the crop as part-payment of it in forex gives us hope to continue cotton farming,” he said.
“I am quite positive that the Second Republic will make sure that our local currency becomes stable so that more farmers plant the crop,” said Bushe.
Mrs Emilia Rwodzi (80) from Gudubu in Mhangura, who was elated by her recent payment of her cotton in local and foreign currency, said she was hoping to put a bigger portion of her farm under the crop this coming season. “I have a big family and I need more land to grow cotton and improve our livelihoods. I was elated by my recent payment of cotton in local and foreign currency. I am hoping to put more land under the crop this coming season,” she said.
Another cotton farmer, Ms Doreen Chiedza from Mauya, in Hurungwe district, who is yet to try her luck this season, said she was being motivated by the handsome payouts.
“I will try to do cotton next year as most farmers in my area and surrounding places have managed to realise more from the crop which has been referred to as white gold,” she said.
Cotton is mostly grown under contract arrangements in Zimbabwe with ginners providing inputs and buying the produced seed cotton.
The Government through Cottco is the main contractor accounting for more than 85 percent of all cotton production.
Zimbabwe seed cotton mainly produced by smallholder communal farmers with small plots ranging from half a hectare to five hectares, is sought after globally, as it is hand-picked with minimal contamination thereby maintaining good quality standards.
Cotton remains the most viable drought tolerant crop to grow in marginal rainfall areas under Natural Regions 3, 4 and 5.
The provision of free inputs under the Presidential Input Programme coupled with considerable knowledge and experience act as incentives in cotton production.
Cotton is a strategic crop that is interwoven into the rural economy and indeed, the national economy, as it is a cash crop for farmers, particularly those in drought-prone areas.
The crop provides lint for downstream textile industries and generates export earnings, while the cotton seed is used to extract edible oils for human consumption with the seed residue used in animal feeds.
Production of cotton can transform rural communities through the major cash crop and having huge benefits to the economy at large as a major source of cooking oil for local consumption and cotton fibre for export markets.
The intervention by the Government on cotton production through the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme was meant to revive the sector, which was collapsing due to low prices offered by merchants and other problems related to inputs. Some farmers in cotton growing areas had abandoned the crop after prices fell and merchants had reduced input packages citing side-marketing by farmers, further affecting production.
At peak, Zimbabwe produced 351 000 tonnes of cotton in the 2010/11 season and the Government has since set a target to raise production to 300 000 tonnes by 2025. Zimbabwe mainly uses open-pollinated varieties but indications are that production could go up to as much as 600 000 tonnes with the use of hybrid seeds.