Sunday Mail Reporters
Cotton merchants have appealed for more time to engage in another round of dialogue with farmers over prices following Government’s move to come up with a Statutory Instrument that will see it becoming the sole buyer of the crop.
Government’s move is in response to the impasse between cotton farmers and ginners over prices where the latter is offering between 30 and 50 cents per kg.
Growers have flatly refused the offer while on the other hand the merchants argue that the price of cotton on the international market has continued to fall hence the lower prices they are offering.
The price impasse has led to delays to the opening of the cotton-selling season which usually comes to life in April.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made, yesterday disclosed that he met with the cotton merchants and farmer unions as part of measures aimed at breaking the impasse.
“I had a long meeting with 14 cotton merchants and farmer unions representatives on Friday.
“Farmers are concerned about the time being spent on dialogue without real action while merchants feel their facts are being misrepresented and hence can be pushed out of business.
“The merchants asked for more time to engage the farmers,’’ said Dr Made.
However, Dr Made made it clear that Government was not going to reverse its decision to buy cotton this season.
“In one way or the other I have to buy cotton this year to bring some sanity into the industry and save the farmer because there is a bit of carelessness on the market.
“Drafting of the Statutory Instrument is complete and by the end of the week we will be talking of a different story,” he said.
Dr Made added that he made it clear to the merchants that Government was not going to pay the US$0,16 subsidy they have been calling for.
Recently Government announced that it was making cotton a controlled product by suspending the Agriculture Marketing Authority Instrument that enabled merchants to freely buy and sell the crop.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Ginners’ Association director-general, Mr Godfrey Buka, dismissed reports that their association was owned by former white farmers who were deliberately offering low prices to frustrate the agrarian reform programme.
“This belief, should it genuinely exist, is completely baseless and unfounded. CGA has been very supportive of land reform as indicated by the growth of the inputs scheme value from US$13,2 million in 2009 to the current level of US$42 million” said Mr Buka.
He said that their pricing formula was inclusive of by-products.