Arusha — Tanzania's cotton production was recorded at 224 million kilograms in the last harvest season, signalling a major increase in the crop yield compared to previous years.
Speaking in Arusha, the Director General of Tanzania Coffee Board, Mr Marko Mtunga, said the last season's cotton harvest stood at 987,000 bales, which was a major step -- up from 163 million kilograms that were produced in previous year.
"Local farmers were inspired by good market prices of cotton despite constant fluctuation as well as the boost from better and readily available farm inputs aided by the new national Agriculture Promoting initiative, 'Kilimo Kwanza!' explained Mr Mtunga.
Tanzania's biggest rival as far as the cotton growing in Africa is concerned is Zimbabwe which produces an average of 265 million kilograms per season and the two countries have been competing against each in delivering the exports to international markets.
"Seventy per cent of cotton grown in the country is exported while local industries use the remaining 30 per cent," said Mr Mtunga adding that the presence of the Regional Cotton Technical Centre (RCTC) cotton testing laboratories at the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) in Dar-es-Salaam has helped in the proper grading of the crop bales.
Ambassador Ali Mchumo, the Managing Director for Common Fund for Commodities, said the CFC in association with the European Union had established the Regional Cotton Testing Centre in Dar-es-Salaam to cater for nine countries within the Eastern and Southern African region.
"There are only two such centres on the Continent, the Dar es Salaam one built at US $ 7 million, to cater for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia with the second one based in Mali, which serves the Central and West African region," said Mr Mchumo.
The CFC Director said the centres have helped African cotton exporters to identify and grade their consignments effectively and meet the international market requirements. The Director General of TBS, Mr Charles Ekelege, explained that the RCTC instrument testing facility may have been established by both the CFC and EU but the Tanzanian government also assisted the construction of the premises by injecting 120m/- into the project.
Mr Ekelege added that the RCTC which had already been launched and operationalised managed to train qualified experts to offer further trainings and re-checking of samples and round trials to regional laboratories. On his part, Mr Terry Townsend, who is the Executive Director for the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), said the two regional testing centres at Dar and Mali were at the moment sufficient to cater for the entire continent though there were plans to establish a third one for Northern Africa.
The experts gathered in Arusha yesterday for the final seminar on the commercial standardization of instrument testing of cotton in Africa.