31 August 2014

Tanzania: Cotton Sector Still Dogged Serious Challenges

DEPUTY Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Godfrey Zambi , TCB Acting Managing Director, Mr Mwalo and Acting TCB western Zone Director Kalidushi Buluma in Kwimba and Maswa districts recently.

THE cotton sector is facing entrenched challenges which need to be addressed meaningfully and consistently to realize the sector's potential.

The challenges are persistent with poverty, particularly amongst the crop's primary producers, (i.e. the smallholder cotton growers), and can be grouped in two classes - domestic and external. For more than 120 years cotton has been grown in Tanzania.

However, despite the practice for so many decades, the sector has on the contrary progressively faced a number of challenges. On the one side, there is low productivity; on the other, there are output levels which involve poor fibre quality, resulting in persistent low incomes for the smallholder farmer, who has for these decades dominated sector.

The challenges threaten the existence of the sector as a viable socio- economic mainstay for about 40 per cent of the national population.

At the end of the 1990s, and as a positive way of anticipating the new 21st Century, the cotton stakeholders began to take a series of initiatives to stem the tide of decline.

According to the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) outgoing the TCB Board Chairman, Dr Festus Limbu, the initiatives began with the formulation of the first Cotton Sector Development Strategy, (CSDS I: 2000/01- 2005/6. CSDS I) which was swiftly complemented by the 2000 Mwanza Resolution.

"These have been followed by the second Cotton Sector Development Strategy, CSDS II: 2010/11- 2014/15," said Dr Limbu. He added that these documents clearly articulate the problems of the sector, and define the strategic measures to be taken to address them.

A major weakness of CSDS I and Mwanza Resolution, however, was lack of an elaborate operational Plan detailing the stakeholders' responsibilities and obligations towards such implementation.

It was a lesson well taken. Following the formulation and adoption of CSDS II, the preparation of its operational Plan became an imperative. This Cotton Industry Implementation Plan, CIIP: 2010/11-2014/15, therefore, serves that purpose.

CIIP is the cotton sector stakeholders' Joint Plan of Action in the implementation of CSDS II. According to each and every stakeholder, CIIP interprets the goals, objectives and targets of CSDS II into quantifiable programmes, projects and activities that should be put in place, and their related cost estimates.

Thus, all stakeholders are duty bound to implement their respective plans, individually, or in groups as indicated; using their own resources. As with CSDS II, the preparation of CIIP has been participatory, embracing all stakeholders.

CIIP has been more so because it involves the commitment of unrequited private financial and other resources towards its successful implementation.

Since stakeholders agree that CSDS II is the roadmap for increased production, productivity and profitability, and since they have committed themselves towards its implementation, a new era is indeed dawning of making the cotton sector a hub for poverty eradication and improving people's welfare, Dr Festus Limbu (MP) said.

Challenges have never stopped since the introduction of contract farming as many challenges have ever happening and cotton product is on the way to decline.

Owing to these challenges in the cotton subsector, stakeholders' 11th meeting that was held on August 15, 2014 in Mwanza City, in which members set a number of resolutions to curb the vice. One of the resolutions was to direct Quton to involve itself in the distribution of its germinated cotton seeds and not to depend on ginning companies to do it.

The whole aim is to avoid sabotage and eliminate complaints that Quton seeds are inferior. Members also ordered TCB to coordinate compensation procedures for farmers who incurred loss after they applied for Quton Seeds alleged to have been inferior.

The procedures and extension expertise should be in place to educate cotton farmers on the proper usage of quality seeds during plantation. A paramount resolution said TCB should prepare all training needs on contract farming to be presented to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives.

The ministry should then forward the resolution to Tanzania Gatsby Trust, who is the sponsor. The resolution stated that there should be a permanent mechanism for computing cotton indicative price.

Likewise, there should also be farmers representatives in the computing meeting for their benefits. At the same time, there ought to be a mechanism to consider ways of improving the quality of cotton because some of the provisions of cotton sub-sector since the 2010 Act are likely to affect the operations of the Cotton Sector.

There is also need to engage TCB as a regulator and make it come up with concrete solutions, members said. Another resolution said that producers and all stakeholders in the industry should aim to enhance productivity at farm and ginnery levels to make the whole cotton sector sustainable vibrancy.

We have seen an increase in collaboration between Tanzania Cotton Association (TCA), Tanzania Cotton Growers Association (TACOGA) and TCB, but fluctuation in prices has resulted in disputes, members disputed. The case is similar to what has happened in Zambia where there has been collaboration between Cotton Association of Zambia and Zambia Cotton Growers Association, but fluctuation in prices has resulted in disputes.


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