Firm fined Z$40m for illegal cotton 

Source: Firm fined Z$40m for illegal cotton – The Zimbabwe Independent

THE Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) has fined local cotton farming firm Agri-Alliance ZW$40 million (US$370 300) for the production of banned ratoon cotton.

AMA chief executive Clever Isaya confirmed the development.

Ratooning is a process where cotton farmers do not cut cotton stems soon after harvesting as stipulated by the law, deliberately leaving it to grow on its own at the onset of the next rainy season for a second harvest.

The production and marketing of a ratoon crop is prohibited and the produce thereof is to be destroyed without compensation to the farmer. Ratoon cotton was declared illegal in Zimbabwe under Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019. There are indications that Agri-Alliance has been growing this kind crop around the Middle Sabi area in partnership with local farmers. AMA intercepted the consignment of illegal cotton that belonged to Agri-Alliance worth millions of dollars.

The interception of the crop has also triggered an all-out war pitting the local farming firm against Cottco which is the country’s sole cotton buyer.

“In this case however, the farmer was allowed to gin the seed cotton under strict monitoring by the relevant authorities but in the event of them wanting to export the crop they would have to follow the normal registration process of a contractor,” Isaya said.

According to experts, ratoon cotton is a host for pests such as aphids, silver leaf, whitefly, mealy and other diseases. Ratoon cotton also breeds diseases such as verticillium wilt, black root rot and fusarium.

According to information made available to the Zimbabwe Independent, Agri-Alliance had a crop worth millions which was set for ginning. The consignment was intercepted by AMA and Cottco.

Despite the penalisation of the company, there is still an argument that there are ways to address the issues of diseases and pests considering the changing cotton farming landscape. Cotton industry remains strategic to Zimbabwe’s economy as it sustains about 400 000 households and has the potential of generating foreign currency.

The plant pests and diseases legislation requires the slashing and destruction of all cotton residues on specific dates between June and September in the Lowveld growing areas to control the spread of cotton pests, in particular the pink bollworm.

The destruction must render all cotton plants incapable of re-growth and there are stiff penalties imposed on farmers who violate the rules. An advisor to Agri-Alliance declined to comment saying company management was still on holiday.