President Edgar Lungu is encouraging cotton producers to set up milling plants locally to create jobs and increase foreign income.
Touring one of the largest cotton projects run by NWK Agric-Services in Sinazongwe in Southern Province on Friday, Lungu decried the current situation where nearly all the lint produced in Zambia is exported.
“This must not be allowed. I’m therefore asking cotton producers to set up milling plants to add value to the lint to create the much-needed jobs for Zambians and significantly increase foreign exchange revenue,” he said.
Zambia’s annual cotton production is between 100 000 and 200 000 tons. The production is driven mainly by an estimated 200 000 smallholder producers, engaged in various out-grower schemes.
The sector relies on input pre-financing schemes operated by out-grower and ginning companies who buy the crop and deduct the value of the inputs from the money payable to the farmer.
Lungu wants to see the sector making a significant contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in line with his administration’s diversification programme driven by agriculture.
He said Sinazongwe and the surrounding valley is ideal for growing cotton and crops like sorghum, millet, groundnuts, fruit and vegetables.
He asked cotton ginners to give farmers a fair price for their crop to increase productivity. NWK Agric-Services this season offers K3.70 per kilogramme, compared to last season’s K3.20.
NWK Agric-Services chief agriculture service officer Kelvin Hambwezya said government’s diversification programme will act as an incentive for his organisation to increase production.
“What is needed is the continued effort by government to provide an enabling environment through an inclusive agriculture policy.”