Cotton farmers in the country have expressed worry over market access of the cash crop both on local and international markets in the 2019/2020 season.
The development comes in despite government earlier invested K1 billion with an aim of increasing cotton production and productivity through use of high yielding cotton varieties.
In random interviews which YONECO FM conducted in Karonga District, cotton farmers have decried being let down as they are yet to sell their crop in the current market season.
Francis Mwapondere is one cotton farmer from Mwamunyira Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kyungu in Karonga District and he says he been practicing cotton farming for the past 30 years.
But to Mwapondere, the 2019/2020 season has been the worst farming season he has ever experienced as a cotton farmer attributing to lack of market access of the crop.
Said Mwapondere: “I would like to inform government, if there is indeed government, that they should give money ADMARC so that they buy our cotton and we be assisted otherwise we facing a very dire situation here in Lilongwe as our cotton is yet to be bought”.
Concurring with Mwapondere, another Cotton farmer in the same district Alufeyi Musachi has faulted the Cotton Council of Malawi (CCM) for failing to provide market access to the farmers.
“To say the truth, Cotton Council is no longer helping us, we thought this could have been the best time for them to come in and intervene on our situation but the Council is nowhere to be seen,” said Musachi.
Reports also indicate that cotton production has been able to increase, with yield also increasing to 1400Kg/Ha. It was expected that farmers benefit from a total of K9.7 billion from cotton revenue while government was expected to gain $10 million from export revenue.
In his response, the Council`s Executive Kosmas Luwanda has singled out the COVID-19 pandemic and low prices as some of the challenges which have affected the cotton value chain.
“As Council we are aware about that challenge and we have been trying to get around it the problem that we had is that due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic the marketing of seed cotton this year faced a lot of challenges,” acknowledged Luwanda.
Meanwhile, one of the ginners licensed to buy cotton from farmers, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) says it will soon start buying cotton following its earlier suspension of the market of all crops.
“Actually we had suspended all the buying markets just for the election, currently we would like to assure the farmers because we had secured a guarantee from government to borrow from commercial banks and we will start buying from farmers including cotton,” said Agnes Ndobvi, ADMARC`s spokesperson.
Statistics have it that cotton is one of the major agro-based foreign exchange earners in Malawi,
However, for the past decade, cotton production in the country has been characterized by a steady decrease in production levels to as low as 10,000 metric tonnes in the 2018/19 season.
Malawi has a capacity to produce more than 100,000 metric tonnes of seed cotton through creation of a conducive production and marketing environment.