Freedom Mutanda Chipinge Correspondent
SHORTAGE of cotton packaging material at selling points in the southern part of Chipinge has slowed down the white gold deliveries and forced thousands of farmers to stock the lint in unsafe storage facilities that expose it to risk of fire and contamination.
With the 2017-18 cotton season producing a bumper harvest, many farmers in Chipinge district are faced with serious shortage packaging material.
As a result many cotton growers are storing the white gold in kitchens and other unsecure and poorly ventilated facilities where it is likely to lose its lint value due to smoke contamination.
Cotton buyers are offering 50 cents per killogramme and the growers will be paid an export incentive of 10 percent as Government moves to boost production of the crop.
The bumper cotton harvest is attributed to the Presidential Inputs Scheme which rendered assistance to cotton farmers in the area.
In Manicaland, only Cottco should buy the white gold, amid revelations that the over 90 percent of the crop was produced under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
“We are happy with the price of 50 cents per kg that is being offered by the Cottco, but insufficient packing bales are our major challenge.
“Farmers are failing to deliver the cotton as a result and chances of losing the harvested produce are real and high as a result of the non-availability of the packaging material,” said Mr Reketai Sithole, a grower from Munepasi Village.
In the past cotton selling seasons farmers had no gripes over the availability of packaging material and it seems this season that cotton companies are either ill-prepared or overwhelmed.
An agronomist Mr Teramai Maposa said shortage of cotton packaging could result in the cotton losing its lint value.
“Cotton will lose its lint value and will be prone to colour threatening pests and thus devalue its grade.
“Further, the whole harvest can be lost due to fire. Moreover, smoke compromises white colour,” he said.
Mr Neshi Bhebhe, a grower from Garahwa had this to say:
“We have plenty of cotton this year, but unfortunately we are faced with storage problems. Can you imagine that the bulky of the cotton produce crop is being stored in kitchens, where the risk of it catching fire and being contaminated are high. Can you imagine the magnitude of the loss and the impact of the Presidential Input Scheme if disaster struck?”
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association provincial treasurer-general, Mr Skumbuzo Tondlana attributed this season’s success to the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
“About 99 percent of the crop in Manicaland was funded through the Presidential Inputs Scheme and the buyers were overwhelmed by volumes, and thus, we have this crisis which threatens to undo all the good that the Government has done,” said Mr Thondlana.
Reports of private players who want to reap where they did not sow abound.
The buyers are allegedly conniving with farmers and engage in side marketing, forcing some growers to castigate the behaviour.
“Though we have the packaging material shortages, we should not be seen promoting side marketing because it is Government intervention that has taken us this far. We should respect the contract by selling our produce to the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe and shun these fly-by-night buyers,” said Mr King Masara from Matikwa.
Some experts in Chisumbanje have urged private players to compliment Government efforts to revive the cotton industry.