El Niño-induced Drought Chews Up 55% of Zimbabwe’s Seed Cotton Production

– The season has been challenging, characterized by a late and false start to the rains, followed by prolonged dry spells

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) in Zimbabwe has revealed that the El Niño-induced drought contributed to a significant 55% drop in the country’s seed cotton production this year.

AMA’s Chief Executive Officer, Clever Isaya, made the revelation during the 2024 Seed Cotton Marketing Season Launch in Harare on Thursday.

“The focus is on 40,000 metric tonnes for this year’s seed cotton production,” Isaya said. “Compared to previous seasons, you can see the impact. Last season, we were looking at 90,000 metric tonnes, but it has gone down considerably.”

According to Isaya, the season has been challenging, characterised by a late and false start to the rains, followed by prolonged dry spells.

He added that climate-proofing cotton through adaptation of Pfumbudza/Intwasa is key to mitigating the impact of climate change.

The 2024 marketing season has begun amid complaints from farmers that some contractors, like Cottco, have yet to pay dues for the last season.

Contractors and Cotton Purchasing

For this season, eight contractors have been registered: Alliance GinneriesAgri-Value ChainCottco, Innovative Cotton, New Cotton Company, ShawashAgri, Southern Cotton Company, and Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium.

To avoid a repeat of past seasons’ issues, cotton merchants will only be allowed to buy seed cotton once they have completed paying farmers for deliveries made in the last season and when all grade differential prices have been paid.

“Furthermore, all contractors are directed to buy from their contracted farmers,” Isaya emphasized. “For this marketing season, AMA will be implementing a quota system based on the level of support each contractor provided during the current season. No contractor shall be allowed to buy outside their quota except for self-financed crops.”

Marketing Season Details and Payment Concerns

The 2024 seed cotton marketing season is expected to run for a month, from June 6 to July 6. A total of 647 Common Buying Points have been established, including 164 permanent buying points.

However, contractors have been urged this year to ensure payment points are within a 5-kilometer radius from farmers’ locations.

The minimum seed cotton prices have also decreased this year:

  • Grade A: US$0.43 per kg
  • Grade B: US$0.39 per kg
  • Grade C: US$0.36 per kg
  • Grade D: US$0.32 per kg

Meanwhile, the Cotton Producers Association of Zimbabwe (CPAZ) has expressed concern over the low prices and non-payment of outstanding dues.

Lower Prices and Payment Concerns

“The prices for this marketing season are a bit lower than last year, mainly due to the reduced quality of cotton as a result of the El Niño-induced drought,” said Stewart Mubonderi, National Chairperson for CPAZ. “There has also been a price drop on the international market. While we agreed that farmers would be paid in cash upfront this year, liquidity challenges may lead to a different situation.”

AMA has stipulated that payments for farmers will be split: 75% in US dollars and 25% in local currency.

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