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ZIMBABWE’S cotton production is estimated to increase by 31 percent this year due to the good rains received in most parts of the country, the growers’ association said yesterday. Output for the season which ended March this year, is projected to rise to 190 million kilogrammes from 145 million in 20122013 season, the Cotton Growers Association said.

Cotton remains one of the country’s largest foreign currency earners, but production remains constrained due to the lack of agricultural technology and stiff competition from subsidised growers in countries such as the United States and India.

“We had good rains last year and we are expecting better yields this year,” said CGA.

Zimbabwe is yet to embrace genetically modified crops, but industry players believe the country could significantly increase output if farmers were allowed to grow GMO cotton.

Small scale farmers, numbering nearly 200 000, grow about 98 percent of cotton under various contract farming schemes.

Last year, 12 cotton ginners financed cotton production to the tune of US$32 million, largely through the supply of inputs.

Contract schemes were introduced at a time when farmers were failing to access finance from the banks and financial institutions due to a lack of collateral.

Under the contract schemes, all contractors are required to have signed agreements with individual growers, which are then registered with the Agricultural Marketing Authority.

Some of the major cotton financiers for last year were Cottco Holdings and China Africa Cotton and Sino Zimbabwe.

Sino-Zim chief operating officer Mr Thomas Meke said his company was expecting to buy 25 million kgs.

The company has 15 000 contracted farmers after financing 32 000 hectares.

It spent $3 million procurement of inputs for the 201314 farming season.

Cottco Holdings financed about 34 percent of the total crop, making it the largest cotton merchant, managing director Mr Collins Chihuri said in an interview yesterday.

The record production of 353 000 tonnes achieved in the 19992000 season has been difficult to surpass due to activities of the pseudo contractors who consistently have not fully supported the crop.

While this was almost achieved in 2012, it was due to the record high producer prices which were three times the normal average.

As prices started declining, most farmers abandoned cotton for the “better rewarding”tobacco production.

Source : The Herald