Cotton Ginners Africa Limited (CGAL) says the current economic environment is slowing implementation of its $2 million (about K1.3 billion) tractor hire scheme.
CGAL managing director Spencer Zinyemba, in response to an e-mail questionnaire, said the project, which was piloted three years ago, remains outstanding on its list though it had already started procuring the tractors.
“The economic environment is so hostile that planning has not been easy. The normal support given to farmers is even threatened. We have only deferred this project until the economic environment improves,” he said.
Zinyemba said the company has concentrated on normal support to farmers which is provision of inputs regardless of whether the farmer paid back loans or not, adding that it is currently compiling the total credits given.
He noted that cotton seed planting is always late due to late land preparation done by manual labour which, he said, is getting scarce and expensive.
“CGAL believes that mechanisation would be cheaper and effective because with technology, ploughing newly opened land can be much simpler and cost effective other than hand labour,” Zinyemba said.
He hopes that the tractor scheme will ease pressure on government project thereby increasing the cultivated land size and improving yields nationwide.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Erica Maganga is on record as having said mechanised farming is a step towards the realisation of a transformed agricultural sector in Malawi.
She said lack of mechanisation is one of the major challenges affecting the agriculture sector.
“Mechanised farming increases productivity and tractors are crucial to a country like Malawi where human labour is becoming scarce. The tractors will help to improve people’s lives as they will save time spent in farms by offloading it to other farming activities,” said Maganga.
Cotton has the potential of raking in $500 million (K306 billion) per annum, more than what the country gets from the main export crop tobacco. n