Some players in the cotton industry have called for the adoption of new cotton technologies such as genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties with promises and hopes for higher quality and yields.
Quton Malawi Limited general manager, John Lungu said in an interview last week the Bollagard II cotton variety, which is in the second year of trial, is genetically engineered to be insect-resistant, but also comes with a number of advantages.
“Our cotton market has not performed well and has not met the expectations of both farmers and buyers. Prices and weather patterns have been frustrating to farmers, which in the end has forced many farmers to opt out of the farming business. On the other hand, Malawi has produced low quality cotton because of the variety. It is time we tried GM cotton.
“Farmers are spending almost 65 percent of their money to control the pests, but these varieties are modified; hence cost of production will be lessened and release the ambition of the cotton farmers as well as government,” he said.
In a separate interview, Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi (Cofam) president George Nnesa was upbeat that GM cotton comes with high quality and yield, which would translate in better returns for the grower.
“We, therefore, call for a speedy implementation and approval for the trials,” he said.
Cotton, which is the country’s fourth largest cash crop after tobacco, sugar and tea, generates about K5 billion annually.
Malawi’s cotton production has been fluctuating over the years, with output falling by a third to 15 000 metric tonnes relative to the previous year due to a dry spell, among other key factors.
Cotton, which is largely grown by smallholder farmers in Chikwawa, Nsanje and some lakeshore areas, is estimated to be grown on 80 000 hectares, and accounts for seven percent of farming families, according statistics.