An agriculture expert and stakeholders in the cotton sector have called for speedy investments in the cotton value chain to enable the country produce finished products for both local and international markets.
The call comes amid lack of markets 30 000 metric tonnes (MT) of cotton this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said in an interview yesterday that what is happening in the cotton sector should be a wake-up call to boost the local manufacturing industry.
He said most of the cotton is produced for markets in China and South Africa, but now with Covid-19, Malawi should not only invest in production but also in processing.
Said Nkhono Mvula: “We need to swiftly revamp the cotton manufacturing and processing to manufacture cotton associated products.
“Low investments into industrial production is a huge risk for agricultural development and to the economy.”
He said Malawi is paying the price for exporting raw cotton and importing clothing and associated products from cotton.
On his part, Felix Lombe, chief executive officer of African Institute for Corporate Citizenship, a stakeholder in the cotton sector, said value-addition is the only viable option for the country.
He said: “The situation leaves farmers, government and Cotton Council of Malawi on the losing end considering the investment made this far.”
Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi president Dickson Gundani said in an interview yesterday that farmers plan to meet Minister of Agriculture to map the way forward.
On his part, Cotton Council of Malawi executive director Cosmas Luwanda said ginners have only bought 15 000MT of the crop out of 45 000MT produced this year.
The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and Afrisian Limited were the only firms that bought cotton this year while others pulled out due to to lack of tangible international markets due to Covid-19.
Last year, cotton prices hit over K410 per kilogramme (kg), but this year government pegged grade A at K389 per kg and grade B at K310 per kg.
In the 2019/20 fiscal year, government allocated K1 billion for cotton production and farmers were given loans for buying inputs.
Cotton is one of the most lucrative crops along its value chain.