The government is determined to revive the cotton sub-sector and increase production in a bid to boost the agricultural sector and the textile industry which at one time was the country's biggest source of export revenue.
The Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) Director General, Marco Mtunga said in Mwanza over the weekend that some of the strategies being adopted towards that end include adoption of contract farming and multiplication of UKM08, a new certified cotton seed which is expected to improve the quality of cotton lint while boosting cotton yields in Tanzania.
"Application of Good Agricultural Practices supported by adequate supply of quality inputs (seeds, insecticides, sprayers, fertilisers) will raise cotton output by over 60 per cent in the next three years," he told eight Regional Commissioners from the Western Cotton Growing Areas (WCGAs) who visited the Mwabusalu seed multiplication Ward in Meatu District, Simiyu Region.
Proper processing of seed by delinting which is the removal of lint from it is critical in ensuring high germination rates and limiting disease spread. Mtunga said the government and donors have supported research at the Ukiriguru Agricultural Research Institute (UARI) to come up with the best seeds that could be used by cotton farmers. It has developed a number of new seed varieties - one of which - UKM08 is currently being multiplied.
The UKM08 has a ginning outturn (GOT - lint as a share of seed cotton) of 42% compared to 34 per cent for UK91, the current major variety, and a 25% higher yield. "As a sector, quality seed forms the basis of quality and high yields in cotton farming. In order to ensure a sustainable revival process of quality cotton seed, the government has created an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in seed multiplication, processing and marketing of cotton seed for planting to farmers," he said.
The revival process will involve all stages of seed production from breeder seed, pre-basic seed, and basic seed to certified seed. Ukriguru Research Institute will produce both breeder and pre-basic seeds at Ukiriguru and Nkanziga farm in Misungwi respectively then the private sector will collect the seeds for further multiplication at Mwabusalu Ward in Meatu District.
The basic seeds produced in Meatu will be taken to Igunga District to be multiplied to get certified seed ready for distribution to farmers.
Due to fusarium wilt infestation in many cotton producing areas, which is a disease that can last in the soil for over 30 years, suitable areas for seed multiplication include the whole of Tabora region, Singida region, Meatu district and some parts of Itilima district only.
Tanzania Cotton Board has been instructed by the government to ensure that all cotton farmers plant certified seeds come 2019.
In implementation of the government directive, during 2016/17 farming season, a total of 4,108 acres have been planted to cotton at Mwabusalu Ward with a target of producing 500 tons of delinted seeds which will be adequate to plant 55,000 acres in Igunga during 2017/18 farming season with an expected output of 7,000 tons of certified delinted seeds.
Using the seed rate of 6 kilogrammes per acre, the quantity of seeds to be produced will be enough to plant one million acres which the national acreage. Igunga District this farming season planted 46,100 acres of UKM08 standard seed which is expected to produce 4,000 tons of seeds.
Nzega District planted 4,500 acres to cotton with an expected output of 700 tons. This quantity if delinted will cover more than 10 districts during 2017/18 farming. In order to sustain seed multiplication programme, Tsh. 377 million has been budgeted by the Cotton Development Trust Fund to be spent on construction of irrigation infrastructure at Nkanziga farm in Misungwi to boost production of prebasic seeds.
"In order to successfully rollout the UKM08, avoid contamination, and maintain purity of the seed we have put a system in place that allows the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute to identify, register, inspect and certify cotton farms that are planting UKM08. Deliberate adulteration of the seed crop will not be tolerated.
TCB is calling upon cotton farmers and buying agents to resist the urge to adulterate cotton otherwise they will face the full force of law through the mobile courts which helped to curb adulteration the previous season leading to over 95 per cent germination of the current crop.
Other efforts being undertaken as part of the revival process include sensitisation and training of key stakeholders".