Zimbabwe is this year set to record the lowest cotton output in three years largely due to bad weather conditions, some industry players and officials have said.
With deliveries almost drying up, farmers have delivered 53 000 tonnes of raw cotton “and we are unlikely to reach 55 000 tonnes,” the industry players said. This would be 53 percent lower than the initially projected yields or a 34 percent drop from last year.
The late onset of rains and erratic rainfall patterns led to a reduction in cotton output.
“We had a bad season and this was compounded by waning interest by some farmers due to nonpayment of previous deliveries,” said one official with a leading cotton firm.
“But the US dollar part payment (this marketing season) will attract farmers back to cotton growing and; barring bad weather conditions, we should have better yields next year.”
This year’s producer price consists of US$0,30c plus $32 per kilogramme.
Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is facing growing risks as a result of extreme weather and shifting of the seasons as a result of climate change and cotton has not been spared.
“These are results of climate change and call for producers to do away with old; tired varieties and adopt hybrid seeds that have the potential to improve yields by as much as 45 percent when compared with the traditional varieties. The hybrid seeds also require less water compared to non-hybrid varieties,” Harare-based agronomist Tobias Chuma said.
According to a report produced by Cotton 40, an initiative working for a sustainable and climate resilient cotton industry, 40 percent of cotton-producing regions are likely to see their growing seasons shortened by rising heat, while drought could hit half of the global crop by 2040.
Chairman of Cottco, the country’s largest cotton firm Sifelani Jabangwe said last week while output declined in 2022 due to poor rainfall, the sector is forecast to rebound in 2023 due to renewed interest in cotton by farmers.
Cotton is mainly grown by rural farmers, with the majority (about 85 percent) supported by the Government under the Presidential Cotton Free Inputs Scheme.
Under the scheme, farmers get free inputs including, seed, basal and top fertilizer as well as chemicals. Cottco, which administers the sche
me also provides tillage services.
The scheme was launched in 2014 in a bid to boost yields after output plummeted to 28 000 tonnes, the lowest yield in nearly two decades after the 1992 drought.
Since the launch of the state-assisted scheme, production has been steadily going up with occasional dips in drought years.
The scheme has helped in the resuscitation of the cotton industry which is a major source of employment for countryside farmers. Financially, cotton has been bringing in an average of US$70 million annually, according to official statistics.
Earnings have grown from US$11 million in 2016 up to US$70 million last year with benefits having been accrued along the value chain and around the cotton production ecosystem.
However, there are growing calls to invest more in value addition facilities. The current spinning capacity cannot absorb the 30 percent of lint earmarked for the local industry because there is not much room to value addition along the textile value chain.
Zimbabwe’s cotton season runs in two phases: planting between October and January and a harvesting and marketing phase that runs from May to September.