By Wezzie Gaus
Cotton output is projected to shrink this year due to devastating effects of the Tropical Storm Ana that hit some parts of the country, especially the Shire Valley.
Cotton Council of Malawi Executive Director Cosmas Luwanda Wednesday said, this year, farmers might produce the commodity on less than 38,000 hectares of growing land.
Luwanda said most farmers would have nothing to show for their work.
“We have 40,000 farmers that grew cotton this year and most of them are from the Shire Valley, which has been affected. This means an automatic loss to the industry.
“We, as a council, have the markets ready for the crop but with the disaster that has hit most of the farms, we may not be able to supply more lint to our buyers,” Luwanda said.
Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the government needed to devise a plan on how best to help the farmers.
Mvula suggested that the government should distribute winter early maturing to the farmers.
“What has happened this year should be an eye-opener to the cotton council. This is a time they should start promoting other areas that can grow cotton rather than depending much on the lower Shire area,” Mvula said.
In 2020, the minimum cotton price was set at K385.00 per kilogramme (kg) but due to the outbreak of Covid the price was reduced to about K340.00.
The minimum price for seed cotton for the 2021 season was K320.00 per kilogramme, of which K20.00 was for farmer contribution to the Cotton Development Fund.
Meanwhile, one of the players in the cotton supply chain, Millennium Farms Limited, has said cotton remains a key cash crop needing special attention.
Its chief executive officer Joseph Odala said the crop has capacity to complement tobacco as a major forex earner.
“Cotton has a large production ecology, stretching from Karonga to Nsanje with a large processing capacity that can take as much as 300, 000 metric tonnes production with potential earnings around $210 million using present existing processing capacity.
“Cotton is therefore a clear replacement for or a very strong compliment to, tobacco,” He said.
Currently, the national production is down to just about 10, 000 metric tonnes, 3 percent of the national processing capacity.
In an attempt to resuscitate and upscale cotton production, the company has promised a long-term sustainable market, setting K490 per kg as a minimum buying price for Grade A cotton in this year compared to K389 per kg of minimum farm-gate price in the 2020/21 season.
President for Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi Dickson Gundani was excited with the move.
Grown by about 300,000 small-holder farmers, cotton has remained one of the largest agricultural exports, ranking fourth as a foreign exchange earner after tobacco, sugar and tea.