By admin       2018-01-05

04 Jan '18 - Malawi government should invest $4.8 million (about K3.5 billion) into cotton farming to revive the industry which is at the verge of collapsing, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) has said. There has been a decline in cotton production which is worrisome because cotton remains among the best forex earners which can replace tobacco. AICC Chief Executive Officer Felix Lombe said that Malawi’s cotton production has gone down from 100,000 metric tonnes in 2012 to around 15,000 in 2017, according to Malawi News agency. “The cotton sector in Malawi is now collapsing. There is need for urgent intervention,” he said. “Government should inject $4.8 million which is barely less than K3.5 billion, a very small amount of money by government standards, to revive the sector,” he said. Farmers are not able to afford farm inputs such as right chemicals to fight pests and diseases, a situation that has forced many of them out of cotton farming over the years, Lombe explained. The result is that the number of cotton farmers in the country has gone down from 300,000 in 2011 to 150,000 in 2016. Significant government injection towards cotton input supply was made in 2011/12 season when the administration of the late President Bingu wa Muntharika pumped in K1.6 billion (at 2011 constant prices) resulting in the 100,000 metric tonnes of cotton produced in the following year. Since then, there has not been any meaningful government support towards inputs, the agency report said. “The decline has resulted in loss of foreign exchange in excess of $60 million [over K45.5 billion] by government, shrinking of economic activities within the sector and reduction in employment levels. Furthermore, around 150,000 farmers remain underemployed whereas their annual earnings of $26 million [over K18.8 billion] is lost,” Lombe said. He added that the sector previously offered 15, 000 fulltime jobs to people but now it employs less than 300 people because most ginning and cotton value addition companies closed down as a result of low production. “This low production has affected not only ginners but also seed crushers who have resorted to importing crude oil for refining and essentially exporting jobs and draining the much-needed forex. Additionally, there has been loss of business in allied industries like chemical and seed suppliers due to reduction in production levels of seed cotton. If nothing is done, the sector risks crashing beyond the current level,” he said. Lombe said there was a need for the country to work out an input supply model to ensure that farmers had access to quality inputs, according to the report. (SV)

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