Friday, November 30, 2007

Amended cotton Act vital to sector - Kapita

Amended cotton Act vital to sector - Kapita
By Joan Chirwa
Friday November 30, 2007 [03:00]

Agriculture and co-operatives minister Ben Kapita has said the amended Cotton Act that is still being discussed is likely to be approved early next year. During a cotton exhibition held at Alliance Francaise in Lusaka on Wednesday night, Kapita said the approval of the amended Cotton Act was critical to the sector in order to deal with the contentious issues affecting both the farmers and ginning companies.

“There are a lot of issues affecting the cotton industry in this country. There is the issue of side-selling which is affecting both farmers and genuine ginning companies,” Kapita said.

“We have had new entrants in the game of late every pre-planting period. Most of them do not pre-finance the crop but they wait for harvest time so that they can buy the cotton from farmers who were pre-financed by other ginners.”

The current legislation for the cotton industry does not restrict the issue of side-selling, and most ginners say this had stifled the growth of the sector.

Kapita also hoped for good seed cotton prices during the next marketing season.

“Agriculture is now becoming the main economic activity in this country and it is important that cash crops such as cotton are promoted by ensuring a win-win situation between farmers and the ginners,” Kapita said.

“The cotton sub-sector was liberalised in 1996 and this resulted in an increase in the number of cotton farmers from 37,000 to over 180,000 farmers by 2004. It is therefore important to continue supporting this sector so that farmers can produce high quality cotton which can increase the incomes of the farmers.”

About five major ginners have agreed, after meetings with the Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ), to offer pre-planting prices of around K1,200 per kilogramme of seed cotton during the next marketing season.

This is in view of rising cotton prices on the international market as well as the stability of the local currency against major currencies this year.

A number of cotton farmers last year withdrew from the industry largely on account of the low prices offered during the 2005/2006 marketing season, following the appreciation of the kwacha against the United States dollar.

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