Some cotton farmers in the country have complained that uncertified seed is affecting the crop’s yield.
One of the farmers, Alice Wailesi from Chikwawa, said in an interview that this year, she harvested 100 kilogrammes (kg) of cotton from two hectares, attributing this to uncertified seed.
She said with certified seed, she harvests 900kg on the same piece of land.
“I bought four packets of seed at K1 000 each, but the output has not been encouraging. This year will be difficult for my family as we rely on cotton for a living,” said Wailesi.
Another farmer, Edson Alfred from Phalula in Balaka, said uncertified seed has affected his crop as it was attacked by pests and diseases.
“The most unfortunate part is that I got a loan to buy the seed,” he said.
A snap survey in some cotton fields in Chikwawa, Balaka, Machinga and Salima districts show that some farmers resort to buying cheaper and recycled seed, which are also vulnerable to pests and diseases.
A recent analysis by African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (Aicc) show that national yield stand at between 800 and 1 000 kg per hectare (ha) on average depending on the variety of the seed used.
Cotton seed is largely supplied by Quton Limited and the minimum cotton seed requirement for Malawi is at 2 000 metric tonnes (MT) with potential to increase it to 5 000MT.
The Aicc 2017/18 Cotton Yield Assessment Report indicates that total cost of producing cotton using conventional varieties in 2017/18 season was K350 278.63 (about $477) per ha while for hybrid seed, it was at K531 592 ($723) per ha.
With the same unit area of land, those that used hybrid seeds doubled the revenue to K1.3 million ($1 773.98) compared to K375 000 ($510) for those that used conventional seed.
Aicc found that while farmers expressed satisfaction with the hybrid varieties, some were concerned with the relatively high prices associated with the hybrids.
“Besides variations in weather patterns and some farm practices across all ecological zones, hybrid varieties performed well in general,” reads the report in part.
Assistant agriculture extension development coordinator for Mitole Extension Planning Area in Chikwawa Emmanuel Chiputula said many farmers in the district have lost out due to the use of uncertified seed, a development which will affect their livelihoods.
Cotton is one of the country’s important crops and it ranks fourth as a foreign exchange earner after tobacco, tea and sugar. Figures show that over the past 10 years cotton output has been declining from a record 100 000MT to around 15 000MT last year