The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Cottco, is a large cotton processing and marketing organization in Southern Africa.Cottco, is hence the country’s largest cotton financier, and is intensifying efforts to mitigate a shortage of wool packs after it entered into toll ginning arrangements with private ginners.Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Fisheries Minister Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka said ”cotton farmers are ultimately exporters and it is something that we are very excited about and government has put in place a mechanism where farmers will be paid part paid in us dollars 10 dollars per 200 hundred kg woolpack.”
The mismatch between demand and supply has largely resulted from higher cotton output this season without corresponding increase in the availability of the packs. Funding constraints due to delays in the release of funds by the Government, which owns 36 percent shareholding in the company, saw Cottco failing to procure more packs. Cottco administers the Presidential Inputs Scheme meant to support rural farmers and vulnerable households. It was launched in 2015 to revive production after output fell to 28 000 tonnes, the lowest yield in nearly two decades.
Minister Masuka in this regard rvealed to TechnoMag in an exclusive interview that,”the presidential cotton input scheme which will transition to the presidential pfumvudza presidential scheme is meant to cushion the 400 000 households that are into cotton growing.”
Masuka added ”it means every eligible cotton farmer in cotton households in cotton growing areas will be assisted but for this to happen government has got to find a vehicle through which this cotton will be marketed.Government has got a 37% stake in Cottco and we are increasing this stake to at least 51% so that Cottco becomes an important player.It is a selected designated agent for the transmission of the presidential input scheme. It is in this regard that 95% of the cotton that is grown in the country is grown under the presidential input scheme.”
Initial official estimates put cotton output at at least 140 000 tonnes during the 2020/21 season, a 39 percent increase from 101 000 tonnes produced in the 2019/20 season, according to the 2021 Budget review statement. Cottco has entered into a toll ginning arrangement with Innovative Cotton in Mt Darwin while another ginnery in Rushinga will be opened in the next two weeks under the same arrangement. “We are running the ginnery on two- eight hour shifts everyday and we will engage another shift on Wednesday,” Innovation Cotton general Brijkishore Yogi said. “We should be able to release about 600 empty packs per day.”
Masuka said ”so this is good but not good enough and again we are looking at localisation of cotton financing so that the forex requirement is reduced and that increases the viability of cotton farmers.It is something that Government is seized with and we think that there will be an improved payment modalities for the 2021/2022 farming season”
Cottco manager for Mt Darwin business unit, which also covers Rushinga, Mr Future Taruba said the toll ginning arrangement would help mitigate the shortages of wool packs and enable farmers to deliver their produce to buying points. “At the moment we are running on two shifts. The main thrust of engaging two shifts is because we are experiencing a shortage of wool packs.
With the two shifts we are running at the moment, we are managing to release 350 wool packs per day,” said Mr Taruba. “On Wednesday we are going to have the third shift and this should enable us to release more than 500 packs and this will ease pressure on farmers of keeping cotton at their homes. “We have also entered into an arrangement with another ginner in Rushinga and it will be up and running in the next few two weeks.
We should be able to release 400 wool packs per day. “We have a lot of cotton this year; the reason why we are having this shortage.” The Mt Darwin business unit is expecting 9 000 tonnes in deliveries from 2 300 tonnes last season. At Cottco’s Muzarabani ginnery, the company is running three shifts. “We are overwhelmed but we have intensified efforts to mitigate the problem. With the three shifts, we are able to release 750 packs per day,” Muzarabani business manager Sheila Chipende said. Benefiting from timeous distribution of inputs and better rainfall, area planted for cotton increased by 37,5 percent to 239 619 hectares in the 2020/21 season, from 174 212 hectares, as farmers responded well to the Government incentive aimed at resuscitating the cotton.
Minister Masuka gave a glimmer of hope for cotton industry saying
”’we are going to increase the number of households to 520 000 in the 2021/22 agricultural season.Because this is a presidential scheme it means no one is going to be left behind…”