Zimbabwe expects better cotton yields this year compared to last year on the back of good rains.
More farmers took up cotton production this year particularly in new areas as Cottco embarked on a drive to increase the coverage of the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme.
Under the scheme, the Government procures the inputs, which are then distributed through The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe. The package includes fertilisers, seed and chemicals.
The Government came up with the scheme to help revive production, which declined to 28 000 tonnes in 2015 on the back of subdued support to farmers in terms of funding.
Farmers abandoned cotton production citing poor prices. The Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme saw production expanding since 2015, reaching 144 000 tonnes in 2018, but back to back droughts saw production declining in 2019 and 2020.
Speaking during field tours in Mutawatawa and Murehwa this week, Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike ,said prospects for better yields were bright this season.
"We have received good rains and this should help us to achieve better yields although in some areas production will be affected by excessive rains," said Mr Manamike who was accompanied by Uzumba Member of Parliament Simbaneuta Mudarikwa.
The purpose of field visits was to have an appreciation of the crop situation and interact with farmers to understand their concerns.
In the past Cottco used to hold regular interactive meetings with farmers but this has not been possible due to Covid-19.
The incessant rains have caused extreme wet conditions especially in Gokwe, making it difficult for the cotton plants to extract nutrients.
Leaching levels are severe and the rains are destroying the cotton plants at fruiting stage.
Mr Manamike said Cottco was expanding the coverage of the Presidential scheme so that many rural households could benefit. In view of climate change, he said the company adopted climate proofing measures about three years ago which include adopting hybrid seeds that need lesser water and have higher yields.
On average, yield potential of hybrid seeds is about 10 times higher compared with traditional open pollinated varieties.
Cottco came up with the moisture conservation tillage assistance programme. Conservation tillage is a generic term that covers systems that reduce loss of soil and water compared with conventional methods.
"All these measures are meant to ensure the production does not suffer," said Mr Manamike.
"We are much guided by Vision 2030 agenda that seeks to achieve an upper middle-income by 2030."
Turning to the outstanding payments, Mr Manamike assured farmers that they would receive their dues soon.
"The Government has made a commitment and all outstanding payments would be made," he said.
"So we encourage you not to despair. We are also putting in place measures to avoid challenges faced last season."
Mr Mudarikwa applauded the scheme, saying it had uplifted several households.
"I encourage farmers to expand cotton production so that you make your fair contribution to Vision 2030," he said while urging them to desist from side marketing practices.
Farmers expressed satisfaction with inputs distribution processes, but appealed for more chemicals in light of the excessive rains.
"I am quite happy . . . We got all the inputs and I am expecting between 50 and 60 bales from my four and half hectares," said Mr Pemberai Makunha who farms in Murehwa.
"With more support, we can do much better. However, as we continue receiving the rains, we need more chemicals."
Another farmer Ms Emelina Jambwa (30), encouraged rural youth to take advantage of the Presidential Scheme to uplift their living standards.
Apart from participating in the primary production of cotton, Cottco is involved in ginning.
However, further value addition of processed raw cotton is limited because Zimbabwe's textile industry is not fully functional.
There is little uptake of lint by local spinners with the bulk of the commodity being exported.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has since indicated that it is developing strategies for value chains for different sub-sectors of the manufacturing industry including cotton as it looks at boosting production, lower imports and create jobs.