STAKEHOLDERS in the cotton industry have agreed on a pre-planting pricing model for cotton. A recent cotton indaba attended by ginners, farmers, Government officials, bankers, input suppliers and non-governmental organisations sorted out a longstanding dispute over prices. Agriculture Taskforce spokesman Dr Douglas Ncube said the pre-planting price model would enable farmers to make "informed decisions" on whether or not to grow cotton in a particular season.
"It is high time that farmers have adequate information on what would be taking place in the industry and on the market," he said.
"Gone are the days when farmers would produce a crop, hoping for the best, but they should grow cotton knowing beforehand the prices."
Dr Ncube challenged farmers' unions and extension workers to inform farmers on what was happening. He said there was also need for technology to enable farmers to access up-to-date information.
"In Kenya, farmers in remote areas can access information on commodity markets and have choices on what to grow, when and where to sell their produce," he said. The cotton sector has been dogged by a price dispute which has affected most African countries.
Dr Ncube said the cotton issue did not affect Zimbabwe alone but other parts of the region.
"It is unfortunate that farmers in Zimbabwe do not have much influence on prices which are determined on the international markets. Africa has a 16 percent share, with 11 percent of that coming from West Africa, 4 percent from the East and 1 percent from Southern Africa. China and India make up two-thirds of the cotton producers and consume 50 percent of the crop," he said. Dr Ncube said abandoning cotton production was not the solution to the price wrangle, since 1,2 million people in Zimbabwe depend directly on the sector.
"It is unfortunate that yields have been declining over the years," he said.
"Instead of producing 1 500kg per hectare, our farmers are producing 800kg due to declining fertiliser use, partly due to re-allocation to food crops, poor pest management and the degradation of soil quality."