The Sunday Mail
Nearly 300 000 households have registered to grow cotton this season countrywide, with distribution of some farming inputs under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme already in full swing.
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe, which administers the scheme, launched in 2015 to revive the sector, is targeting 400 000 hectares this season. A package of free inputs includes 100 kilogrammes of basal fertiliser, 50kg of top dressing, 20kg of seed and chemicals to cover one hectare.
Ideally, farmers will require to source additional fertilisers to achieve optimum yields. Agronomists say between 200 and 800kg of basal fertiliser are needed for a hectare, depending on the quality of soil while between 100 and 400kg of top dressing are needed.
According to statistics from Cottco, as of November 17, Cottco had distributed 4 700 tonnes of planting seed while 14 000 tonnes of Compound L had been collected by farmers. Top dressing fertiliser and chemicals will be distributed later to minimise inputs abuse. The planting season normally begins mid -November but in some areas such as the Lowveld, it may start end of December or early January.
As such, it is expected that all registered farmers would receive their inputs within the planting period.
Acting managing director, Pious Manamike, last week said distribution of inputs, particularly seed was at an advanced stage and much better than previous seasons.
“We are much ahead compared to other seasons in term of distribution of seed and basal fertiliser,” Mr Manamike said.
Farmers who spoke to The Sunday Mail Business said with the inputs now in their possession, they were now geared for the season.
“This season, inputs have come on time and they continue coming,” Mr Chamunorwa Manyuchi, a 40 year old farmer in Mutoko said.
“There is a huge difference from previous seasons and I can say we are adequately ready for the season.
“Uzumba Member of Parliament Simba Mudarikwa, also a commercial farmer applauded Cottco for timely distribution of the inputs this season.
“I would say this is going to be a very good season for farmers,” said Cde Mudarikwa.
“The majority of farmers have been given the inputs and we would like to thank Government for availing inputs on time.”
Cotton farmers said they were looking for better yields this season on the back of anticipated good rains. In the past two seasons, production of raw cotton was affected due to poor rains that also affected output of other major crops such as tobacco and maize.
This year, Zimbabwe is expected to receive normal to above normal rainfall with cotton farmers expressing optimism about the 2020/21 season.
The Presidential Inputs Support Scheme was introduced to revive the sector after production plunged to 28 000 tonnes, the lowest in nearly two decades. Production, however, gradually rebounded, reaching 144 000 tonnes in 2017. However, as a result of successive droughts, output declined to about 74 000 tonnes in 2019 before slightly increasing to 80 000 tonnes this year.
Poor rains affected production of tobacco, the country’s second single largest foreign currency earner after gold that declined from the record 252 million kilogrammes last year to about 183 million kg this year.
Next year, Zimbabwe targets production of raw cotton at 125 000 tonnes and 265 000 tonnes by 2025, according to the National Development Strategy 1, Zimbabwe’s new economic blueprint launched by President Mnangagwa this week.
This will go a long way in rejuvenating the rural economy, one of the key priorities of the NDS1, a pathway of transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle economy income by 2030.Cotton plays a significant role in uplifting people’s lives especially in the rural areas and it is a crop that can help the nation in the fight against poverty. At peak, cotton production reached 352 000 tonnes in 2012 as farmers were largely attracted by strong prices.