The Government is drafting a Statutory Instrument that will see cotton become a controlled commodity under new measures aimed at addressing pricing disputes around the crop.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made confirmed that the legal instrument would clear the way for the reconstitution of the Cotton Marketing Board which will purchase cotton on behalf of Government.
He said the Attorney-General’s Office was still working on the Statutory Instrument by late last week.
He said his ministry was collaborating with that of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment on the initiative.
All interested merchants would seek special authorisation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Infrastructure Development to purchase the crop if the new system comes into effect.
“We are suspending the cotton instrument of the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) and are already at an advanced stage with preparing another instrument that will enable us to re-establish the Cotton Marketing Board and become the sole buyer of cotton from farmers,” he said.
“We are serious about buying the crop and we have already prepared a budget proposal for this marketing season.
“Serious cotton merchants and genuine contractors will now buy their crop from Government using a special permit that will be issued by the agriculture ministry.”
Dr Made said Government will forge ahead with the proposed new system despite reservations from some quarters.
“Cotton is grown in marginal areas where the people totally depend on this crop and, as Government, we cannot stand aside and watch as the farmers are duped,” he said.
“Farmers’ unions and AMA have failed to protect cotton farmers and, as the Government, we should step in.
“Cotton merchants are not only benefiting from lint, but there are a lot of by-products which generate them a lot of profits.
“Besides the by-products, they also sell inputs to farmers at very high prices. How do they expect the farmer to earn a living and get back into the field the following season when they are exploiting him to the marrow like that?”
The minister added that Government was finalising the modalities of the new system.
“For logistics, we will be using Grain Marketing Board facilities, ginners and any other available facility,” he said.
Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Permanent Secretary Mr George Magosvongwe said the drafting of the Statutory Instrument was at an advanced stage.
“The instrument states that any organisation interested in buying cotton should seek a special authorisation from the Ministry of Agriculture and offer a price that is viable to the producer. It also makes Government the sole buyer for cotton,” he said.
Last week farmer organisations and cotton ginners met and agreed that grade A cotton would be sold at US$0,38 per kg, grade B US$0,34; grade C US$0,30 and grade D US$0,28.
They also proposed that Government pays a subsidy of US$0,16 per kg.
Cotton growers are holding on to their crop to press for higher prices.