Malawi GovernmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s delay in distributing chemicals for spraying cotton could significantly affect the cropÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s production.
A snap survey in the Southern Region cotton growing districts of Chikhwawa, Machinga and Balaka has revealed that many people have grown the crop following last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s record high pricesÃ‚Â and the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s K1.6 billion ($9.5m) Cotton Fund by the Malawi Government.
The survey also revealed that many growers in the districts are optimistic of better prices this year.
Michael Thom of Chikhwawa told Business News last Friday that the delayed chemicals have resulted in much of the crop being attacked by aphids and caterpillars.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“After government announced that it would support cotton growers with the K1.6 billion fund, many growers were excited and this resulted in their interest to grow the crop.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Of course, there were some challenges in seed distribution, but eventually we received the seed and now the chemicals are nowhere to be seen,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Thom.
Balaka-based Matola White of Nandumbo Village,T/A Kalembo in Balaka agreed that the district is also facing the problem.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If the delivery of chemicals delays further, it will be a disaster,Ã¢â‚¬Â said White.
Government is working with cotton buying companies and other stakeholders in ensuring the K1.6 billion programme is a success.
Among other things, Capital Hill is expected to supply the growers with quality seed, chemicals and sprayers.
Secretary for Agriculture Erica Maganga could not be reached for comment on the cause of delays in the distribution of chemicals and sprayers.
But Great Lakes Cotton Company managing director Amos Chipungu, whose company is one of the key stakeholders in the K1.6 billion initiative, while admitting the chemical distribution challenges, urged the growers to take good care of the crop by, among other things, thinning and weeding their fields.
Speaking in Balaka on Monday, Chipungu said all players are going by governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s programme and expressed hope that the chemicals will be distributed soon.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Let me apologise that the inputs have delayed but you also need to appreciate that the chemicals and other inputs are coming from far. But I urge you to ensure that the crop is taken care of,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Chipungu.
Government expects the K1.6 billion Cotton Fund to trigger a 263 percent jump in production from 55 000 metric tons in 2011 to around 200 000 metric tons in 2012.
Group village head NandumboÃ‚Â asked merchants to buy the crop at improved prices.