THE cotton marketing season will begin next Monday with farmers demanding timely payment for their goods.
Over the past two seasons, several cotton farmers have not been paid on time after delivering their crop, largely due to Treasury delays in releasing funds for subsidies.
“What happened in the last two seasons should be a thing of the past and we hope that farmers will get their money immediately after the harvest is delivered,” said the Cotton Growers and Traders Association, Mr Steward Mubonderi, in an interview.
About 85 percent of the cotton growers are government sponsored through Cottco while 15 percent are supported by private traders. The government launched the presidential program of free cotton inputs in 2015 in a bid to revive the sectors after production fell to 28,000 tons, the lowest output in nearly two decades. At its peak, Zimbabwe produced 352,000 tonnes in the 2011/2012 season.
Reasons for the decline in cotton production included insufficient financing from traders, poor loan recovery from farmers due to parallel marketing as well as low farmgate prices.
“We need to see the sector grow and we don’t want a situation that discourages farmers,” Mubonderi said.
Zimbabwe’s cotton production is expected to fall by 30 percent this year to 116,000 tonnes, according to the latest figures from Agritex, but higher than initial estimates after late rains rescued some crops.
The cotton harvest suffered two major setbacks: the late onset of the rainy season and a very long period of drought experienced in most cotton-growing regions at mid-season.
However, unusually heavy rains from March to April repaired much of the damage caused by the mid-season dry spell. Initially, the industry had expected production to fall to 92,000 tonnes. The cotton season in Zimbabwe takes place in two phases: planting between October and January and a harvesting and marketing phase which normally extends from May to September.
The price for the 2022 cotton marketing year has been set at $111 per kilogram for harvesting financed by private companies and $63.23 for production under state-assisted agriculture programs – Pfumvudza /Intwasa and the presidential program of free inputs. Farmers will receive an additional US$30 per bale weighing 250 kilograms.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said in February that cotton farmers, alongside tobacco growers, would receive 75% of their earnings in foreign exchange as the government sought to boost production of the two agricultural commodities by export. But the cotton companies have failed to obtain loan facilities in US dollars.
Industry players said the announcement, made in the 2022 monetary policy statement, came late, as it normally takes around six months for such facilities to be approved.