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ZIMBABWE was among the top 10 African cotton producers last year, a report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) has said.

A Zimbabwe monthly economic review for February released by AfDB last week said the country was number eight in Africa after producing 250 000 tonnes of cotton.

“Whilst cotton production was allocated US$9,9 million under the Presidential Input Scheme in the 2015 national budget, Zimbabwe stands to benefit more from the crop if it strengthens the cotton value chain so as to export value added cotton products unlike the current case where Zimbabwe exports raw cotton lint,” said AfDB.

Previously cotton, also known as white gold, has economically uplifted places such as the hot and semi-arid areas like Gokwe in the Midlands province.

Besides bringing in the much needed foreign currency, the textile, oil-pressing and stock feed industries have also benefitted from cotton production in Zimbabwe.

According to the list of the top ten cotton producers in Africa, Mali produced the most at 1 000 000 tonnes. The list is also made up of Ivory Coast, 877 000 tonnes, Benin, 600 000 tonnes and Egypt, 520 000 tonnes. Cameroon produced 500 000 tonnes, while Tanzania accounted for 400 000 tonnes. A total of 280 000 tonnes was produced by Nigeria. Zambia produced 230 000 tonnes while Chad completed the top ten producers list with 220 000 tonnes.

However, as the 20142015 cropping season progresses, indications are that the sector is in serious trouble in Zimbabwe because many farmers failed to access adequate inputs from contractors.

Farmers decried the closure of these companies, arguing that current merchants were untrustworthy and not interested in the development of communities.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) reports that for the 2015 season, cotton farmers did not go back to the fields after failing to get good prices for their produce last year.

“The International Cotton Aisory Committee expects the low world cotton prices to persist, making the crop less attractive to other competing crops like maize and soya beans. World cotton production is forecast to fall by six percent to 24,6 million tonnes, the lowest volume since 2010,” said AfDB.

The 2015 cotton crop in Zimbabwe is too small that experts in the industry believe that it would be smaller than the 20122013 crop which was 145 000 tonnes.

This is despite the fact that the country has capacity to produce over 350 000 tonnes.

It has since fallen from number 27 and landed out of the 192 world cotton producer rankings.

The challenges that have bedevilled cotton production for over a decade have resulted in the collapse of the sector.

In Zimbabwe, cotton was a strategic crop for poverty alleviation as it was grown by about 250 000 smallholder farmers, although the 2014 report presented at the 73rd plenary meeting of the International Cotton Aisory Committee shows that there are an estimated 170 000 small-scale cotton producers in Zimbabwe. This represents an average 15 percent decline from 200 000 in the 201213 season.

Cotton contributed sustainably to rural incomes, rural development, employment and export earnings. It was the mainstay of rural communities, resulting in the development of areas like Gokwe, Sanyati, Rushinga, Checheche, Muzarabani, Matepatepa in Bindura and Muzarabani.

The sector was a major source of livelihood for over one million people, including farmers, farm workers and the textile industry as it once contributed about 19 percent of the country’s agricultural export earnings.

Source : Financial Gazette