COTTON farmers have appealed to government to come up with a competitive producer price of the commodity amid fears that export markets of the white gold might not open anytime soon as a result of COVID-19.
Most cotton farmers in Gokwe who are already harvesting the product are anticipating a bumper harvest with the yield expected to double from the previous season, thanks to the rains received later in the season and timely disbursement of inputs by government.
The farmers who are already picking cotton for packaging say the government should announce the price of the product and come up with payment modalities that are favourable to farmers.
An Agronomist, Gift Chaitezvi who is also a business manager with Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium Company says there is need for stakeholders to come up with strategies to save the cotton industry from collapse in the face of COVID-19.
“What is not under dispute is the fact that the movement of products is under serious restrictions due to this pandemic. Lint is no exception to these movements and we are likely to face a challenge in exporting the product. However, we need to come up with a way forward in safeguarding the future of this essential industry and we need to come up with a plan that will ensure that the farmer goes back in the field in future,” said Chaitezvi.
Government has put in place some deliberate policies to empower farmers through various support schemes. Cotton farmers have expressed concern over the late start of the marketing season as Government is yet to announce the producer price for this year. The season normally starts end of April and runs until September, depending on the amount of yields.
Government has however assured farmers that the new cotton producer price will be announced as consultations over the issue await cabinet approval expected by the end of the week.
Cotton is a source of livelihood for over 400 thousand families in rural areas. Dubbed the white gold, the cash crop is also one of the country’s major foreign currency earners. Last week, the Government said it was considering a subsidy on producer price after world prices plunged due to coronavirus.
Early this month, global lint price plunged to lowest levels since the global financial crisis in 2008 due to coronavirus, denting growth prospects of Zimbabwe’s cotton industry, which has been on a recovery path since 2015. The lowest price was in 2008 during the global financial crisis when prices fell to US 44c per pound.