By BENEDICT TEMBO
GOVERNMENT is in the process of amending the Cotton Act No. 21 of 2001 in order to address some of the challenges, stimulate production and attract more players to the sector.
Minister of Agriculture Reuben Mtolo has appealed to cotton farmers and other stakeholders to make submissions to the review of the Act so to ensure that the law is responsive to the needs of the sector.
In a speech read for him by Seed Control and Certification Institute director Francisco Miti at the field day at Cotton Development Trust in Magoye on Thursday, Mr Mtolo noted that various challenges have resulted in many farmers giving up cotton growing and consequently a decline in cotton production.
“Of special mention here is the prevalence of numerous cotton pests whose control and management constitutes a substantial cost to the farmers, further reducing their profit margins and incomes,” Mr Mtolo said.
He said though the price of seed cotton offered to small scale farmers has been steadily rising in the past years, it is still not the best as it is not cost reflective because of the high costs of inputs including labour in the production of seed cotton.
Mr Mtolo urged researchers, the Cotton Board of Zambia and ginners to promote the adoption of low-cost sustainable cotton production technologies for the small-scale farmers in order to improve their gross margins.
At the field day whose theme was “Promoting Sustainable and Regenerative Agricultural Technologies Amidst Climate ChangE, ” Mr Mtolo said the price setting of seed cotton must also be transparent and fair for both players, the farmer and ginner so that there is equitable sharing of not only risks but also benefits.
“Furthermore, I am aware that the ginners are prepared to invest in adequate input and extension provision but the risks are too high because of poor loan recoveries resulting from side buying and selling. I would like to urge the farmers to pay back their loans by selling their contracted crop to the ginners in order for them to sustain their investment. This will lead to improved and enhanced relationship between the small-scale farmers and the ginners,” he said
Mr Mtolo said there is need to train farmers on mitigation and adaptation strategies in order to counteract the effects of climate change.
“There is also need to enhance trainings on good agricultural practices alongside improved supply of good quality and affordable inputs,” he said.
CDT director Lwishya Silwimba said it was regrettable that despite the services CDT offers, it also faces unique challenges such inadequate resources to enhance extension and training to small scale farmers, inadequate farm equipment, including tractors as well as inadequate farm land to do the seed multiplication and inadequate transport.
He appealed stakeholders and collaborators to assist CDT in alleviating some challenges by coming on board.
“This will in turn have a positive impact on the productivity and national production of seed cotton among the small scale farmers in the rural areas,” Mr Silwimba said.
And Mazabuka District Commissioner Oliver Malambo commended all the institutions working with farmers to increase production of cotton in Magoye.
Mr Malambo said CDT needs support for it to continue playing a meaningful role in cotton production in the country.