Farmers in the Lowveld should consider cotton growing as the crop has potential to contribute significantly towards national economic turnaround, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri has said.
Government through Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), is aggressively pushing for the revival of cotton production after it plunged in recent years attributable to low prices and poor funding.
However, last year the significantly funded cotton production fell victim to El Nino-induced severe drought that ravaged most parts of the country.
Cotton is the source crop for clothing and textile sector raw materials, besides that cotton seed is used for the production of cooking oil, rubber, plastics and cattle feed.
It also serves as an input for oils used in cosmetics and various cuisines and other value chains.
Addressing farmers during the launch of inputs distribution at Chiwenga and Musingwa in Muzarabani, Minister Shiri, said the crop offered wide-ranging benefits to the Zimbabwean economy.
Minister Shiri told the gathering how cotton production would minimise shortages of basics such as cooking oil, pointing out that the country's import bill would be significantly cut if cotton production is pursued vigorously.
He said foreign currency meant for oil imports would be used to import other supplies such as fuel, medicines and electricity.
"We should grow cotton for export, which will earn the country foreign currency, which will then be used for procurement of critical supplies like medicinal drugs and funds (forex) critical to support local industry.
"Cotton is another source of cooking oil besides soyabeans and sunflower, so if we grow enough cotton, cooking oil supply in the county will also improve and cooking oil prices will come down," Minister Shiri said.
Meanwhile, Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike, said the new high yielding cotton variety acquired from India was already making headways into the country for proportionate distribution across the country targeting a minimum of 10 000 hectares for the 2019/20 cotton farming season.
He acknowledged that preparations for planting was behind as projected but all was in control and anticipated full distribution of inputs in a fortnight.
"We are slightly behind time but I am happy because I think in two weeks' time we would have all the seed requirements countrywide and tillage programme is moving on well. As for seed, we are slightly behind time but we have received the first batch of the hybrid seed, it was airlifted from India so we got half of it and the remaining will be coming in a week or so.
"We are going to give this seed proportionally country wide, and we are going to start off with seed that covers 10 000 hectares.
"The seed is high yielding, it can do a minimum of seven tonnes per hectare but good farmers can achieve 20 tonnes per hectare, secondly it is drought tolerant, we tried it the past season and the results were very positive under very dry conditions," Mr Manamike said.