Cotton experts say prospects of high cotton yields this year is bleak due to the adverse weather conditions the country is experiencing as a result of El- Nino phenomenon.
According to Duncan Warren, a former vice-chairperson of the Cotton Development Trust (CDT), Malawi is likely to produce half the amount of cotton produced last year.
He said the country last year harvested about 49 000 metric tonnes (MT), but production this season might fall to between 20 000 MT and 22 000 MT due to erratic rains.
Warren said these estimates are based on the fact that the crop in the Lower Shire has been severely affected.
“In the Lower Shire where farmers grow cotton on a large-scale, the crop did not do well because soon after germination the rains stopped for almost a month. This meant that even if they replanted the crop will not be as good as expected,” said Warren.
But chairperson of the Cotton Council of Malawi, Patrick Khembo, while agreeing that poor weather has affected production, said there is need for proper assessment.
“Without proper figures, nobody can predict that we will produce half the amount of last year even though I agree that we have not had good rains this year,” said Khembo.
Some cotton farmers told Business News that they will have less yield this year, a development that is going to negatively affect the repayments of loans.
Tobacco, tea, cotton, coffee and sugar are the most important crops for trade for Malawi. Agricultural produce brings in more than 80 percent of the country’s export earnings.
Currently, government, through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), has invested heavily in cotton ginneries to boost the sector.
Admarc ginneries can process up to 150 000 MT of seed cotton which, when processed into lint would earn the country $60 million (about K44 billion).