Elita Chikwati Senior Agric Reporter
Cottco yesterday lost 1, 2 million kg of cotton worth about US$2,5 million to a fire outbreak which occurred at one of its toll ginning sites at Checheche growth point in Chipinge South.
The fire broke out in the early hours of yesterday. The fire was still raging by yesterday afternoon as fire fighters continued with their efforts to completely extinguish the fire. Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike confirmed the incident.
“Preliminary assessment indicate that the company has lost about 1 221 000 kg of cotton lint that was ready for export with an estimated value of US$2 500 000. A forklift was also lost in the inferno.
“The fire was detected by a truck driver near the ginnery who immediately alerted the guards and management. Fire tenders from Green Fuels and Hippo Valley were called in to assist extinguish the fire.
“The fire-fighting operation was hampered by strong winds that were being experienced in the area at that time.
“The cause of the fire has not yet been established and investigations are underway,” he said.
Cottco is implementing the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
Since the inception of the Presidential Inputs Scheme cotton production has been increasing over the years.
Cotton growers benefiting under the Presidential Inputs Scheme receive free seed, fertiliser and chemicals while others will also be assisted with tillage services.
The scheme has seen a number of smallholder farmers improving their livelihoods as they do not have to incur inputs costs.
Cotton is important because of its contribution to the textile industry, edible oil and stock feeds manufacturing. It is a vital crop in terms of value addition, employment and import substitution.
Foreign currency earnings increased from 11 million in 2016 to US$80 million in 2018 while use of locally ginned seed in cooking oil and stock feed manufacturing saved US$20 million in 2018.
This has seen Government moving in to support the revival of the cotton industry, resulting in the sector growing from 28 000 tonnes in 2015 to the expected 150 000 this year.
During the 2021/22 season, 520 households are expected to benefit from the Presidential Inputs Scheme.