About 220 000 cotton farmers have quit growing the crop in the country in recent years owing to poor performance of the sector, the African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) has said.
According to the 2019 AICC Cotton Market Analysis Report, as of 2018/19 season, there were 80 000 smallholder farmers that cultivated cotton as compared to the 300 000 growers in 2012/13 season, a situation which has reduced harvests and area dedicated to cotton.
The report shows that despite having potential to accelerate economic growth and development, the commodity faces a myriad challenges which undermine its potential contribution.
Reads the report in part: “Among the patent issues surrounding the cotton value chain are issues to do with cotton production characterised by poor access to marketing services and information, fluctuating prices and most recently low demand and supply
of seed cotton for domestic markets”.
Cotton Farmers Association president Dickson Gundani affirm that cotton growers are looking elsewhere due to the lack of support coupled with poor prices.
He said previously, there was great interest among farmers to grow cotton because of more support provided than in recent years, when cotton growing is characterised by low-yielding seeds, low prices and the lack of production support systems.
Cotton Council of Malawi (CCM) executive director Cosmas Luwanda said the council is banking on the Cotton Subsector Strategy to revamp the sector.
He said: “We acknowledge challenges cited by growers, but we have varieties released recently in 2017 that yield up to 5 000 kilogrammes [kg] per hectare, which is around 50 bales of cotton of 100 kg each. This will really change farmers’ lives as we are going to promote varieties that are going to give us the right yields and right production.
Cotton is the country’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco, tea and sugar.
Cotton market prices, according to AICC, averaged K375 per kg nationawide while seed cotton averaged K375 to K420 per kg from April but the price fell to K300 per kg in cases where farmers offered low grades. However, the best grade fetching K420/Kg with K20 earned per each kg deducted towards levy contributions.
In the 2016/17 season, farmers produced 10 000 metric tonnes (MT) of seed cotton through formal markets which translated into a net worth of K3.2 billion from the average price of K320 per kg.
In the preceding year, Malawi witnessed the lowest cotton production in history, a total of 5 000 MT which translated into reduced national farmer income with prices averaging K320 per kg, translating to K1.87 billion in earnings. This year, cotton farmers have realised a total of K2.78 billion at an average farm gate price of K398 per kg.