Zimbabwe’s Cotton Farmers Face Challenges Amid Heavy Rains

Farmers need timely delivery of chemicals to protect their crop from potential losses

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe’s cotton industry, which supports about 400,000 households and generates significant foreign currency, is facing a major threat from weeds and pests due to the incessant rains that have been pounding the country since December.

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the state-owned agency responsible for distributing inputs and buying cotton from farmers, has been urged to expedite the delivery of herbicides and pesticides to save the crop from potential losses.

According to the Cotton Producers and Marketers Association (CPMA) chairman, Stewart Mubonderi, the continuous rains have made it difficult for farmers to manually control weeds and pests, which can reduce the yield and quality of the crop.

“We call upon the GMB to expedite the delivery of chemicals to farmers, as the good-looking crop needs to be maintained at all costs. Farmers are also encouraged to scout their fields for pests and diseases and ensure their fields are weed-free,” he said.

Mubonderi added that farmers should also apply post-emergence herbicides to control weeds, as well as fertilizers to boost the growth of the crop.

“Yield of the crop is a function of doing the right operations at the right time. Fertilization, weeding, and chemical applications must be done timely,” he said.

The Cotton Ginners Association (CGA) acting chairman, Caos Nzenze, concurred with Mubonderi, saying that the crop was looking exceptionally good and had a promising outlook for the export market, especially in China, where the demand for lint was high.

However, he said that farmers needed to be vigilant and protect their crops from the adverse effects of the rains, which could also cause waterlogging and leaching of nutrients.

He also said that farmers who had not yet planted should continue to do so, especially in areas that had started receiving rains recently, such as Muzarabani, Chiredzi, and Uzumba.

Zimbabwe is one of the major cotton producers in Africa, exporting around 70% of its lint, with the rest consumed domestically. The government has been supporting the sector through the Presidential Cotton Input Scheme, which provides free inputs to smallholder farmers.

The scheme has resulted in an increase in cotton production, from 32,000 tonnes in 2016 to 101,000 tonnes in 2020, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

The government has also increased the foreign currency retention threshold for cotton farmers from 75% to 85%, as an incentive to produce more.

The country has set a target of 357,250 hectares for cotton production in the 2022/23 season, up from 271,286 hectares in the previous season.

As of January 19, 2023, inputs with the potential to cover 306,113 hectares had been disbursed to 212,653 growers by all contractors, representing 86% of the national target, according to the Agricultural Marketing Authority.

Cotton experts have expressed optimism that the sector will continue to grow and contribute to the economy, as well as to the livelihoods of thousands of rural families.

They have also called for more investment in value addition and beneficiation of cotton by-products, such as cooking oil, stock feed, and cosmetics, to create more jobs and income opportunities.

Source: The Herald

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