THE cotton marketing season for cotton will begin next Monday with farmers calling for timely payment of their commodity.
During the past two seasons, several cotton farmers were not paid on time after delivering their crop largely due to delays by Treasury to release funds for subsidy.
"What happened in the past two seasons should be the thing of the past and we hope that farmers will get their money immediately after delivering the crop," Cotton Producers and Marketers Association Mr Steward Mubonderi said in an interview.
About 85 percent of cotton farmers are sponsored by the Government through Cottco while 15 percent are supported by private merchants. The Government launched Presidential Free Cotton Inputs Scheme in 2015 in a bid to revive the sectors after production declined to 28 000 tonnes, the lowest output in almost two decades. At its peak, Zimbabwe produced 352 000 tonnes during the 2011/2012 season.
The reasons for the decline in cotton output included poor funding by the merchants, poor loan recoveries from farmers due to side marketing as well as poor producer prices.
"We need to see the sector growing and we do not want a situation which discourages farmers," said Mr Mubonderi.
Zimbabwe's cotton output is expected to decline 30 percent this year to 116 000 tonnes, according to the latest figures from Agritex, but higher than initial estimates after late rains salvaged some of the crops.
The cotton crop suffered two major setbacks--the late-onset of the rainy season and a very long dry spell experienced in most cotton-growing regions during mid-season.
However, unusually heavy rains in March through April undid much of the damage that had been caused by the mid-season dry spell. Initially, the industry had projected that production would drop to 92 000 tonnes. Zimbabwe's cotton season runs in two phases: planting between October and January and a harvesting and marketing phase that normally runs from May to September.
The price for the 2022 cotton marketing season was set at $111 per kilogramme for the crop funded by private companies and $63,23 produced under State assisted farming programmes-Pfumvudza/Intwasa and the Presidential Free Inputs Scheme. Farmers will be paid an additional US$30 per bale weighing 250 kilogramme.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had said in February that cotton farmers, alongside tobacco growers, will be paid 75 percent of their earnings in foreign currency as the Government sought to boost production of the two agricultural export commodities. But the cotton firms have failed to secure US-dollar loan facilities.
Industry players said the announcement, made in the 2022 Monetary Policy Statement, came late as it normally takes about six months to have such facilities approved.