THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe has started distributing inputs for this season, with farmers applauding the company for the timely disbursements, which they say will enable them to plant on time and improve their yields potential.
Zimbabwe’s cotton production reached 130 000 tonnes last year, the highest in nearly five years due to inputs support by the Government.
Government’s intervention came after yields dropped to 28 000 tonnes in 2015, the lowest in nearly two decades after farmers shunned the crop due to lack of funding and poor prices.
In interviews with several farmers in Muzarabani District last week, cotton farmers said the timely distribution of the inputs would help then to plant on time.
“Now that I have my seed and fertiliser, I can properly plan, plant on time and this will raise the chances of getting better harvest,” said Mr John Kandawasvika.
The inputs package includes two-50 kilogrammes bags of basal and top dressing fertiliser and seed.
Farmers will also receive chemicals. In addition to inputs, Cottco is also providing tillage assistance to high potential cotton farmers and those without draught power.
“I joined this programme three years ago and Cottco has really improved in terms of disbursement of inputs. Getting inputs on time is what — as farmers — we want,” another farmer Mr Emmanuel Shangwa said, adding the free inputs programme has also helped farmers to invest in other income generating projects.
Mr Innocent Gukwe, Cottco’s manager for Zambezi Valley Business Unit where Muzarabani falls under said the programme was going on well while urging farmers to put the inputs to correct use. “We are happy with the progress at distribution points.
“Farmers are receiving their inputs and we are confident that this would help them to plant on time and obviously, increasing the chances of good yields,” Gukwe said.
“We urge farmers to consult and take advice from our field assistant officers so that they do things right. This will help achieve better yields and better crop quality.
Cottco is targeting 400 000 farmers this year, from about 380 000 growers last year.
Cotton, once one of the country’s largest foreign currency earners had lost glitter as farmers shunned the crop due to lack of funding and poor prices. As a result of inadequate levels of inputs and agronomic support by cotton merchants – which led to low yields – proliferation of side-marketing and poor debt recovery in the past few years, the industry almost collapsed. Poor debt recoveries also resulted in contractors fearing higher levels of risk and consequently cutting back on the inputs financing. About five years ago, Zimbabwe had more than 10 cotton merchants and most of them, including US-based Cargill have closed down.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri has already launched the inputs programme in various districts. Minister Shiri said the Government was committed to ensure farmers receive inputs on time to ensure adequate preparation.
The cotton industry remains strategic to Zimbabwe’s economy. It sustains livelihoods of thousands households and has potential of significantly generating foreign currency.