Zambian cotton seed produces low yields and fetches poor prices, says the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI).
IAPRI Executive Director Chance Kabaghe says the number of cotton farmers has drastically dropped from 400 000 to just below 100 000 due to uncompetitive conditions in local cotton production.
“The Zambian cotton sector can only be competitive when seed breeders produce high yielding cotton seed varieties,” Kabagha said. He said introducing high yielding seed varieties will attract good prices, which, in turn, will lure back farmers who have abandoned the crop.
According to IAPRI, cotton is a key source of income for smallholder farmers in Zambia. It is also an important source of income for the investors.
Using a contract farming model, cotton companies invest in farmers by providing inputs such as fertilisers and seeds on credit, expecting the farmers to sell back all of their cotton exclusively to them, so that their processing facilities can operate profitably.
The decline in the global cotton price has driven farmers’ incomes down sharply. Nowadays, farmers complain that they make very little money after deducting loans owed to the contracted company.