Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
THE introduction of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme has resulted in a steady increase in foreign currency earnings for the economy as more farmers have been capacitated to produce more, an official has said.
Cotton Company of Zimbabwe managing director, Mr Pios Manamike, commended Government for increasing its support for cotton farmers. He observed that although the 2017/18 season yielded positive output, the last season suffered a drastic drop in yields because of drought.
“The 2015/16 season saw the country earning US$4,5 million, which increased to US$22,5 million in the 2016/17 agricultural season. In the 2017/18 season, foreign currency inflows rose to US$85 million, an indication of the importance of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme to the country,” he said.
Mr Manamike said national cotton production was expected to rise and urged farmers to produce more in support of the economic turnaround efforts.
“Seed cotton production during the 2015/16 season was 10 800 metric tonnes for Cottco and 28 000mt for national cotton production. During the 2016/17 season, Cottco recorded 54 000mt and 74 000mt for national cotton production,” he said.
“During the 2017/18 season, Cottco recorded 127 500mt while national cotton production was 143 000mt. Seed cotton deliveries are still in progress. However, the national crop is expected to decline by 50 percent because of drought.”
Mr Manamike said employment levels in the sector clocked 4 500 during the 2018/19 season while US$80 million was generated from exports and US$17 million saved on use of local seed.
“The scheme is benefiting at least 400 000 households and touching the livelihoods of at least two million people in support of Government’s poverty alleviation strategy,” he said.
“The company is now employing at least 4 500 employees per season from less than 1 000 employees before the beginning of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme.”
Mr Manamike said the cotton sector can be a US$1 billion industry by investing in the establishment of irrigated large scale highly mechanised corporate cotton estates, which can be integrated with edible oil, stock feed, yarn and fabric manufacturing. Cottco recently completed field trials for a hybrid seed from India in collaboration with Quton Seed Company. The hybrid seed can yield a minimum of 80 bolls per plant weighing five grammes with a plant population of at least 30 000 per hectare.