EVENTS happening in the cotton producing areas of the Lake Victoria zone show more work is need to be done to instill production stability in this crucial sector.

Private efforts alone – that have of late involved contract farming and buying agencies which peg supper profit at the end of their businesses will not in any way help stabilize this sector. There is no doubt about that.

Tanzania Cotton Board’s strategic plan is to increase cotton productivity up to 1000 kg/acre during the 2014/2015 farming season. But with this trend where purely private hands are being employed in production, prices are arranged by private firms, it will be hard to attain this target and perhaps, much worse, maintain it.

A research done by E.I Mwangulumba and Buluma M. Kalidushi of Tanzania Cotton Board in 2012 suggests that stability in cotton production was only attained in two instances ever since the crop was introduced in the county.

The first instance was between 1922 and the 1950s, during the colonial era, when though production was on average bellow 30,000 bales annually, sustainability was maintained throughout the period. During this period, not only private companies were employed, but cooperatives and the state made serious interventions.

These meanders did not end there. The following period to 2013 witnessed and increase in average production to almost 750,000 bales annually. However there were also intermittent sharp declines yields in some of the years Much effort have been put in place, including introducing contract farming under Technoserve in some places to assist over 9,000 Farmers’ Business Groups (FBG) in the cotton growing area, but both sustainability and stability and stability in cotton production is yet to be attained.

What then should be done? We have noted that during the Ujamaa period when the state was working together with cooperatives in the production of this crop, stability existed somehow, but production was relatively low.

However, when state assisted cooperatives were pushed aside and pure privately owned companies came in, we have witnessed the reverse – irregularly incasing production characterized by sharp declines.

If we are to correctly learn from all these past mistakes, the best way to sustain cotton production is to combine the two methods – both state cum cooperatives and private interventions form the point of production to sale.

Let it be understood that unlike other crops, cotton is a lifeline of the entire population of about 45 million. On average 400,000 ha about 45 million. On average 400,000  ha ha are sown to cotton by approximately 350,000 to 500,000 smallholder farmers and is grown in 42 districts of 13 regions out of 127 districts and 21 regions, respectively.

Besides gold which only in the recent years has come to replace it, during the 2005/2006 financial year, cotton was the leading forex earner.

In that wise, its production and marketing should not be left to private hands alone, as Joseph Mihangwa of Shinyanga Regional Cooperative Union (SHIRECU) has warned, but the muscle of the state should somewhat be exercised.


Source: The Guardian, Wednesday December 3, 2014