26 November 2012

Mozambique: Companies Fail to Buy Peasants' Cotton

Maputo — About 2,500 tonnes of raw cotton is at risk of rotting in the northern Mozambican district of Mecuburi, because the company that has the obligation to buy the cotton from the peasant producers has not done so, reports Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

Mecuburi is the largest cotton producing district in Nampula province.

Total production of cotton in Mecuburi this year was about 12,000 tonnes, which is much higher than the target figure of 6,000 tonnes.

This should have been excellent news for the cotton farmers – but so far the concessionary company SANAM (Namialo Cotton Company) has only purchased around 9,000 tonnes.

About 2,500 tonnes remain in the hands of the farmers, exposed to the elements – particularly to the rain now falling over Nampula.

Cotton growing areas are allocated to concessionary companies, who provide seed and other inputs to the farmers, and promise to buy up all their cotton at a fixed price. SANAM’s excuse for not purchasing the rest of the Mecuburi cotton is that it has run out of sacks. It claims that sacks to hold raw cotton are not available on the Mozambican market.

This excuse does not impress the government’s Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM). The IAM delegate for the northern region, Antonio Alberto, said the companies knew well in advance that good rains meant their targets from the 2011-2012 cotton season would be greatly surpassed. It was their responsibility to rise to the occasion by ensuring that they had all the money, sacking and transport needed to purchase all the cotton produced.

A further excuse from the companies was that the farmers threw their timetable out of joint because they did not start bringing their cotton to market until August, while the companies had expected to start purchasing the crop in July. But the farmers were not obliged to obey a timetable set by the companies.

Alberto pointed out that the deadline fixed for marketing the cotton was set, after an extension, for 30 November, and that, under the cotton marketing regulations, companies that fail to meet their obligations will face severe penalties.

Mecuburi is not the only Nampula district where the purchasing companies have let farmers down. “Noticias” reports that about 1,500 tonnes of cotton are still unsold in Monapo, and 1,000 tonnes in Muecate.

Mecuburi district administrator Hilario Anapacala said he was worried at the food security implications of SANAM’s failure to buy the cotton. For the farmers, believing they had a guaranteed buyer, concentrated on cotton to the detriment of food crops.

Now they face the prospect of having inadequate food stocks from their own production, and no money with which to buy food.

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