The new dispensation under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, remains committed to the growth of the cotton industry as evidenced by constant supply of free cotton inputs and improvement in payment modalities in the 2022 cotton marketing season. Cotton farmers countrywide are appreciating the payment on delivery model adopted by the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO) this 2022 marketing season which kick-started on 13 June 2022. The cotton farmers are saying the new development will see them getting real value for their product.
For a long time now, cotton farmers have been crying foul over low producer prices and late payment of their delivered white gold. The current payment system has proved to be a game changer that will boost confidence for the cotton farmers and will not only increase cotton production but also the quality of white gold as well. Unlike in the previous years where it was a nightmare for farmers to get paid in time resulting in their earnings being eroded by inflation, this payment on the spot system will enable farmers to plan properly for the coming farming season in terms of inputs procurement and labour payments.
Admittedly, there have been challenges with payments for the last seasons and the Government has since intervened to ensure that all outstanding payments are cleared without further delay.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe raised the foreign currency component for cotton for the 2022 marketing season to US$30 per bale from US$10 on top of some local currency per each delivered cotton bale. The good thing is that the foreign currency is also being paid instantly. The price for the 2022 cotton marketing season was set at ZWL$ 111 per kilogramme for crop funded by private companies and ZWL$63.23 produced under State assisted farming programmes like the Pfumvudza/ Intwasa and the Presidential Free Inputs Scheme.
The Government launched the Presidential Free Cotton Input Scheme in 2015 in a bid to revive the sector after the production declined to 28 000 tonnes, the least output in almost two decades. At its peak during the 2011-2012 season, the country produced 352 000 tonnes. The reasons for the decline in production included poor producer prices, poor funding by merchants as well as poor loan recoveries due to side marketing.
Government has since criminalised side marketing as it goes against its efforts of creating a revolving fund that benefits the sector in the long run. There are currently 5 registered contractors which are licenced to buy cotton, namely Alliance Ginneries, Shawashi Agri, Southern Cotton Company, Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium and Cottco. The contracted companies are however urged to purchase cotton from farmers they are contracted to and have provided required inputs to avoid side marketing.
The country this year, is expecting 116 000 tonnes according to figures released by Agritex. The figure is a bit higher than the initial estimated 92 000 tonnes. The expected tonnage is almost similar to the 2021 deliveries which were 116,052 tonnes, up from 82,479 tonnes in 2020 following the subsidies and increased government support to farmers.
The Government supports about 85% of cotton farmers through Cottco, while 15% are supported by private merchants and plans are afoot to increase cotton production next season under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.
Cottco, as the administrator of the Presidential Free Input Scheme is doing a good job in making sure that cotton inputs have reached the intended farmer and that they are being fully utilised. Cotton Producers and Marketers Association led by Mr Stewart Mubonderi is also doing a great job in conscientising farmers on good agronomic practices and in mobilising new farmers to join the cotton industry.
Despite challenges being faced by the cotton sector, the industry is hopeful that it continues to grow and contribute towards attaining the country’s Vision 2030 of an Upper Middle Income Economy.