Zim needs 600 000ha cotton for cooking oil

Source: Zim needs 600 000ha cotton for cooking oil | The Herald

Zim needs 600 000ha cotton for cooking oil
Cotton area, output and declining average yield (1980 to date).

Edgar Vhera-Special Writer

THE country needs to commit 600 000ha to hybrid cotton seed to achieve cooking oil sufficiency amid revelations that putting the same hectarage under open pollinated varieties (OPV) will only yield two months’ supply of cooking oil.

Statistics availed by ZimStats show that in 2021 the country imported about 167 000 tonnes of cooking oil producing products worth over US$260 million with crude soya bean oil imports amounting to 140 000 tonnes worth US$223 million, followed by palm oil and sunflower oil.

Zimstats’ statistics come amid growing calls by stakeholders in the cotton industry for the Government to urgently start procurement and payment procedures for the importation of high yielding Mahyco hybrid cotton seed from India to boost cotton production and productivity in the coming 2022/23 season for improved incomes.

The stakeholders noted that there was a lag between the time funds are paid to the overseas consignor and the delivery of the seed in the country, thanks to supply disruptions by Covid-19 and the geo-political developments in Eastern Europe.

“It takes about three months to get the inputs in Zimbabwe if the ordering and payment for the hybrid seed is done now,” Cotton Producers and Marketers Association chairman, Mr Stewart Mubonderi said recently.

At least 5 000 farmers are currently using the high yielding Mahyco hybrid cotton seed, which has given stakeholders hope that the Government would procure and avail the hybrid seed to all cotton farmers for the country to fight the low productivity currently bedevilling cotton production.

Mr Mubonderi expressed optimism the coming season would witness an increased cotton hectarage following the Government’s timely intervention with lucrative cotton prices this season and the classification of cotton as an export crop.

“We must tap into the current bubble among cotton farmers to increase production and productivity, which guarantees increased foreign earnings for the country as well as improved raw material supplies for ginners, oil expressers, stock feed manufacturers, clothing and textile industries,” observed Mr Mubonderi.

Stakeholders have blamed the reduction in seed cotton production and productivity on OPVs, low producer prices, climate change, soil nutrients depletion, inadequate inputs, inputs diversion, side-marketing and knowledge gap.

They argue that despite the Government giving free inputs to cotton farmers with private contractors coming in as sponsors too, Zimbabwe’s average cotton yield is below the world average of 1,7 tonnes per hectare or way below the three tonnes per hectare achieved in Australia due to better technology.

Cotton productivity has been on a declining trend from an average yield of 1,32 tonnes per hectares in the 1980s to around 0,82 tonnes per hectare in the 1990s going further down to about 0, 71 tonnes per hectare between 2000 and 2009. The period 2010 to 2019 was no better either, as the yields declined further to 0, 69 tonnes per hectare with the depressing trend continuing in the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the average sinking to 0,37 tonnes per hectare (less than two bales per hectare).

Chief director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Professor Obert Jiri recently confirmed that the country had about 12 000 tonnes of mainly OPV cotton seed, which can potentially plant about 520 000 ha of cotton.

One hectare of cotton requires 15kg of OPV seed while the same hectarage requires four kilogrammes of hybrid seed.

Last year the price of one kilogramme of OPV seed was going for US$1, 65 while that of hybrid was priced at US$20.

If all cotton farmers were to plant the 520 000 ha at the current average of 0, 37 tonnes per hectare, seed cotton output will only be 192 400 tonnes against the potential of 1 040 000 tonnes with hybrid.

Processing of seed cotton from hybrid seed will produce about 603 200 tonnes of ginned cotton seed from which about 120 640 tonnes of cooking can be yielded.

As the country requires about 12 000 tonnes of cooking oil per month, this output will ensure that the country is cooking oil self-sufficient for 10 months only from cotton seed.

This will be a boost for the Government’s import substitution drive under National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and vision 2030, that is meant to save the country’s much needed foreign currency as well as arrest the exportation of jobs.

“If Government was to fund cotton production by setting aside US$60 million each year to purchase Mahyco hybrid seed, it will be enough to plant between 520 000 to 600 000 ha of cotton.

“Urgent joint collaboration is required between the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and Cottco to speed up the procurement process and the release of funds for hybrid cotton seed procurement before the start of the 2022/23 rainfall season,” said Mr Mubonderi in his parting shot.

Cotton remains the most viable drought tolerant crop to grow in marginal rainfall areas under Natural Regions 3, 4 and 5.