Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has pledged to clear outstanding payments to 2020 cotton farmers by the end of this month and assured producers of further support to ensure viable production in the next season, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr
Anxious Masuka, said this in Parliament on Wednesday.
He said delays in payment during the 2020 marketing season were a result of macro-economic challenges and the disruption experienced in the electronic money platforms.
He said because of the challenges, the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), which buys locally produced cotton, opted to partly pay farmers in the form of groceries.
“Now that the economy has stabilised, inflation is coming down and the payment system has been put in place, we all hope that the payment for cotton farmers this season will proceed seamlessly and smoothly and that farmers will receive their due payments,” said Dr Masuka.
“May I also take the opportunity to reassure the House and cotton farmers that the outstanding dues to farmers from 2020 selling season will be paid out by the 31st May, 2021,” he said.
The harvesting of the crop has commenced across the country ahead of the 2021 cotton marketing season whose dates are yet to be announced.
According to the Second Round of Crop and Livestock Assessment Report for 2020/2021 season, cotton production is estimated at 195 991 tonnes, which is 32 percent increase compared to 2019/20 season.
The increase is attributed to the above-normal rainfall received and the impact of the Presidential input support programme. Area planted under cotton in the 2020/2021 summer cropping season was 239 619 hectares compared to 174 212 ha in the 2019/2020 season.
In the 2020/2021 cropping season, the Presidential Cotton Inputs Scheme registered a significant increase in the number of farmers taking up production in areas where the crop had been long abandoned.
The white gold is grown in eight regions of the country which are Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West.
The Government supported Cottco scheme, which is in its fifth consecutive year, is meant to support vulnerable households with free inputs that include seed, fertiliser and chemicals.
The intervention has helped revive domestic production of the fibre, which had declined on the back of a combination of reasons among them poor funding, inadequate agronomy support and side marketing.
In the 2014/15 season, cotton production fell sharply to 28 000 tonnes, the lowest output in nearly two decades.
It, however, steadily gained momentum, with yields coming in at about 142 000 tonnes in 2017 but took a dip in the following two seasons as a result of back-to-back droughts, which also affected other major crops such as tobacco and maize. — @okazunga.