Delayed grading worries cotton farmers

COTTON farmers fear that the decision by the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe to defer grading the delivered crop until after the buying season will likely prejudice them of the true value of their crop. The cotton marketing season is expected to close at the end of August.

Cottco, which is expecting a haul of 110 000 tonnes of the white gold, plans to export 31 500 tonnes of lint from the expected total of 45 00 tonnes, earning Zimbabwe US$53 million.Farmers delivering their crop at Cottco’s 433 buying points are being paid USc47 per kg, which is the set price for grades C and D.

Prices for grades A and B have been set at USc55 and USc50 respectively, but the grading will be done after the buying season, tentatively in September, and farmers whose crop would have been graded A and or B will then receive the difference in the adjusted price.But farmers would prefer their crop to be graded first, even if their payments are to be settled later.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the problem stemmed from the fact that farmers had previously been promised adjustments that never came.“The problem we have is we have previously had these promises that we will get adjustments only for these adjustments to never come,” said Mr Chabikwa.

“For a farmer to get these high grades, they would have invested a lot, expecting to be paid a premium, so when the premium then fails to come, it dampens the farmers’ drive, so this is where farmers’ scepticism is coming from.”

He, however, acknowledged that cotton grading was an onerous task.“It’s also quite a tricky situation for the farmer in that we are the ones who asked the buyers to spread their buying points to where the farmer is so as to cushion us from transport costs.

“So our understanding is that grading can only be done at depots, not at every buying point. But then our plea to Cottco is after we have understood their plight, they should not take our trust for granted,” he said.

Last week, Cottco MD Mr Pious Manamike, who indicated that concurrent buying and grading was time-consuming, assured farmers they would receive proceeds from any adjustments.

“You must appreciate that we are dealing with a large number of farmers, about 155 000 of them, and most of them do not sell at one go,” said Mr Manamike. “And most of them dispose of their produce in multiple sales, so it becomes difficult dealing with the high number of deliveries and grading at the same time.

“What we will do instead is, as soon as we are done buying, which should be by end of August, we will start grading and farmers can be rest assured they will get their adjustments.”

The State-controlled entity paid out US$1,1 million in December last year as adjustments for 2016 deliveries, all of which were bought at USc35.

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